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M D C C C X L V. 

Xh± s One 





When you were stationed on oar coast about twelve years ago, you first re- 
commended to my particular notice the poems of the Ayrshire ploughman, whose 
works, published for the benefit of his widow and children, I now present to you. 
In a distant region of the world, whither the service of your country has car- 
ried you, you will, I know, receive with kindness this proof of my regard ; 
not perhaps without some surprise on finding that I have been engaged in edit- 
ing these volumes, nor without some curiosity to know how I was qualified for 
such an undertaking. These points I will briefly explain. 

Having occasion to make an excursion to the county of Dumfries, in the 
summer of 1792, I had there an opportunity of seeing and conversing with 
Bums. It has been my fortune to know some men of high reputation in liter- 
ature, as well as in public life, but never to meet any one who, in the course of 
a single interview, communicated to me so strong an impression of the force 
and versatility of his talents. After this I read the poems then published wiih 
greater interest and attention, and with a full conviction that, extraordinary as 
they are, they afford but an inadequate proof of the powers of their unfortu- 
nate author. 

Four years afterwards. Burns terminated his career. Among those whom 
the charms of genius had attached to him, was one with whom I have been 
bound in the ties of friendship, from early life — Mr John Syme of Ryedale. 
This Gentleman, after the death of Bums, promoted with the utmost zeal a sub- 
scription for the support of the widow and children, to which their relief from 
immediate distress is to be ascribed ; and, in conjunction with other friends of 
this virtuous and destitute family, he projected the publication of these volumes 
for their benefit, by which the return of want might be prevented or prolonged. 

To this last undertaking, an editor and biographer was wanting ; and Mr 

Syme's modesty opposed a barrier to his assuming an office for which he was in 

other respects pecidiarly qualified. On this subject he consulted me ! and with 

the hope of surmounting his objections, I offered him my assistance, but in 

vain. Endeavours were used to procure an editor in other quarters, but with- 



out effect. The task was beset with considerable difficulties ; and men of esta- 
blished reputation naturally declined an undertaking, to the performance of 
which it was scarcely to be hoped that general approbation could be obtained, 
by any exertion of judgment or temper. 

To such an office, my place of residence, my accustomed studies, and my 
occupation, were certainly little suited ; but the partiality of Mr Syme thought 
me in other respects not unqualified ; and his solicitations, joined to those of our 
excellent friend and relation Mrs Dunlop, and of other friends of the family of 
the poet, I have not been able to resist. To remove difficulties which woula 
otherwise have been insurmountable, Mr Syme and Mr Gilbert Bums made a 
journey to Liverpool, where they explained and arranged the manuscripts, and 
arranged such as seemed worthy of the press. From this visit I derived a de« 
gree of pleasure which has compensated much of my labour. I had the satis 
faction of renewing my personal intercourse with a much valued friend, and 
of forming an acquaintance with a man closely allied to Burns in talents as well 
as in blood, in whose future fortunes the friends of virtue will not, I trust, 
be uninterested. 

The publication of these volumes has been delayed by obstacles which these 
gentlemen could neither remove nor foresee, and which it would be tedious to 
enumerate. At length the task is finished. If the part which I have taken, 
shall serve the interest of the family, and receive the approbation of good men, 
I shall have my recompense. The errors into which I have fallen are not, I 
hope, very important ; and they will be easily accounted for by those who 
know the circumstances under which this undertaking has been performed. 
Generous minds will receive the posthumous works of Burns with candour, 
and even partiality, as the remains of an unfortunate man of genius, published 
for the benefit of his family, as the stay of the widow, and the hope of the 

To secure the suffrages of such minds, all topics are omitted in the writings, 
and avoided in the life of Bums, that have a tendency to awaken the animosity 
of party. In perusing the following volumes, no offence will be received, ex- 
cept by those to whom the natural erect aspect of genius is offensive ; characters 
that will scarcely be found among those who are educated to the profession of 
arms. Such men do not court situations of danger, nor tread in the paths of 
glory. They will not be found in your service, which in our own days, emu 
lates on another element, the superior fame of the Macedonian phalanx, or ( f 
the Roman legion, and which has lately made the shores of Europe and of Africa, 
resound with the shouts of victory, from the Texel to the Tagus, and hom the 
Tagns to the Nile ! 

The works of Bums will be received favourably by one who stands in the fore- 
most rank of this noble service, and who deserves his station. On the land or on the 
f>ea, I know no man more capable of judging of the character or of the writings of 
this original genius Homer, and Shakspeare, and Ossian, cannot always oc« 


cupy your leisure. These volumes may sonietiraes engage your attention, 
while the steady breezes of the tropic swell your sails, and in another quarter 
of the earth, charm you with the strains of nature, or awake in your memory 
the scenes of your early days Suffer me to hope that they may sometimes 
recall to your mind the friend who addresses you, and who bids you most affec- 
tionately adieu I 


Liverpool^ 1st May, 1800. 


It Is impossible to dismiss this Volume* of the 
Correspondence ot our Bard, without some 
anxiety as to the reception it may meet with. 
The experiment we are making has not often 
been tried ; perhaps on no occasion has so 
large a portion of the recent and unpremedita- 
ted effusions of a man of genius been commit- 
ted to the press. 

Of the following letters of Bums, a consid- 
erable number were transmitted for publica- 
tion, by the individuals to whom they were 
addressed ; but very few have been printed 
entire. It will easily be believed, that in a 
series of letters written without the least view 
to publication, various passages were found 
until for the press, from different considera- 
tions. It will also be readily supposed, that 
our Poet, writing nearly at the same time, and 
under the same feelings to different individuals, 
would sometimes fall into the same train of 
sentiment and forms of expression. To avoid, 
therefore, the tediousness of such repetitions, 
it has been found necessary to mutilate many 
of the individual letters, and sometimes to ex- 
scind parts of great delicacy— the unbridled ef- 
fusions of panegyric and regard. But though 
many of the letters are printed from originals 
furnished by the persons to whom they were 
addressed, others are printed from first draughts, 
or sketches, found among the papers of our 
Bard. Though in general no man committed 
bis thoughts to his correspondents with less 
consideration or effort than Bums, yet it ap. 
pears that in some instances he was dissatisfi- 
ed with bis first essays, and wrote out his com- 
munications in a fairer character, or perhaps in 
more studied language. In the chaos of his 
manuscripts, some of the original sketches were 
found ; and as these sketches, though less per- 
fect, are fairly to be considered as the offspring 

♦ Dr Currie's edition of Burns' Works waa origin- 
ally piibli^hed in four volumes, of which the follouiog 
Correnpoiidcnce formed the second 

of his mind, where they have seemed in them* 
selves worthvof a place in this volume, we have 
not hesitated to insert them, though they may 
not always correspond exactly with the letten 
transnutted, which have been lost or withheld. 

Our author appears at one time to havn 
formed an intention of makinff a collection of 
his letters for the amusement of a friend. Ac- 
cordingly he copied an inconsiderable number 
of them into a book, which he presented to 
Robert Riddel, of Glenriddel, Esq. Among 
these was the account of his life, addressed to 
Dr Moore, and printed in the first volume. * In 
copying from his imperfect sketches (it does 
not appear that he had the letters actually sent 
to his correspondents before him) he seems to 
have occasionally enlarged his observations, and 
altered his expressions. In such instances hi.' 
emendations have been adopted ; but in truth 
there are but five of the lettem thus selected by 
the poet, to be found in the present volume, 
the rest being thought of inferior merit, or 
otherwise unfit for the public eye. 

In printing this volume, the Editor has 
found some corrections of grammar necessary ; 
but these have been very few, and such as may 
be supposed to occur in the careless effusions, 
even of literanr characters, who have not been 
in the habit of carrying their compositions to 
the press. These corrections have never been 
extended to any habitual modes of expression 
of the Poet, even where his phraseology may 
seem to violate the delicacies of taste ; or the 
idiom of our language, which he wrote in gene- 
ral with great accuracy. Some difference will 
indeed be found in this respect in his earlier and 
in his later compositions ; and this volume will 
exhibit the progress of his style, as well as the 
history of his mind. In the Fourth Edition, 
several new letters were introduced, and soma 
of inferior importance were omitted. 

,^^_^_^ ^im^ [■■[■■■■iiM ' ' ~- III • ■ 

* Occupying from page xxvi to page xxxil of t*ili 





ErrBCTS of the legal establishment of parochial 
schools— of the church establishment— «f the 
absence of poor la\rs— of the Scottish mnsie 
and national 8ongs--of the laws respecting 
marriage and ioconUnence— Observationa on 
the domestic and national attachment of the 
Scots ........ xvii 


Karratiye of his infancy and yonth, by himself— 
Narratiye on the same subject by his brotlier, 
and by Mr Murdoch of Loudon, his teacher- 
Other particulars of Bums while resident in 
Ayrshire— History of Bums while resident in 
Edinburgh, includiog letters to the Editor 
from Mr Stewart, and Dr Adair^>History of 
Bums wliiie on the farm of Ellisland, in Dum. 
frieSi^ire — History of Bums while resident 
in Dumfries— his last illness— death— and cha- 
racter—with general reflections • . xxvii 

Memoir respecting Burps, by a Indy . . Ixxvi 

Criticism on the Worlcs of Bums, including obser- 
vations on poetry in the Scottish dialect, and 
some remarks on Scottish literature . Ixxix 

Tributary Verses on the Death of Bums, by Mr 

Roscoe xcvii 


1. To a Female Friend. Written about the year 


2. To the same .... . . 

3. To the same . . • . . . . 

4. To the same 

!> To Mr John Murdoch, 15th Jan. 178S, Bums^ 

former teacher ; giving an account of his pre- 
sent studies and temper of mind 

6. Extracts from MSS. Oboerrations on rarious 


7. To Mr Aiken, 1786. Written under distress of 


& To Mrs Dunlop. Thanks for her notice. Praise 
of her ancestor, Sir William Wallace 




9. To Mrs Stewart of Stair, endoaing a poem on 
Miss A ib. 

10. Dr Bladdodc to the Rer. O. Lowrie, eneoorag. 

ing the Bard to rlalt Edinbnrij^ and print a 
new edition of his poems tliere ... 8 

11. From Sir John Whitefoord . . . . ib. 
12 From the Rev. Mr Lowrie, 22d December 1786. 

Adrice to the Bard how to conduct himself in 

Edinburgh 9 

1 a To Mr Chalmers, 27th Deoember 1780. Fralae 

of Miss Bnraet of Monboddo . • . ib. 

14. To the Earl of Eglinton, Jan. 1787. Thanks for 

his patronage ib. 

1& To Mrs Dunlop, 15th Jan. 1787 Aooount of 

his situation in Edinburgh . . . .10 

16. To Dr Moore, 1787. Oratefol acknowledgmenta 

ot Dr M.*s notice of him in his letters to Mrs 
Dunlop ibw 

17. From Dr Moore, 23d Jan. 1787. In answer to 

the foregoing, and endosiiig a sonnet on the 
Bard, by Miss WiUlams .... 11 

18. To Dr Moore, 15th February 1787 . . ib. 

19. From Dr Moore, 28th February 1787. Sends 

the Bard a present of his " View of Sodety 
and Manners," &c ib. 

20. To the Earl of Olencalm, 1787. Oratefol ac 

knowledgments of kindness ... 12 

21. To the Earl of Buchan, in reply to a letter of 

advice ib. 

22. Extract concerning the monnment erected for 

Fergnson by our Poet 13 

23. To , accompanying the foregoing . ib. 

Si. Extract from , 8th March 1787. Oood 

adrice . . • ib. 

25. To Mrs Dunlop, 22d March 1787. Respecting 

his prospects on leaving Edinburgh .14 

26. To the same, 15th April 178r7. On the aaroe 

subject 15 

27. To Dr Moore, 23d April 1787. On tho same 

sut^ect ... . . . . ib. 

28. Extract to Mrs Donlop, 30th ApriL Reply to 

Criticisms ib. 

20. To the Rev. Dr Blair, Sd May. Written on 

leaving Edinburgh. Thanks for his kindness 16 

30. From Dr Blair, 4th May, in reply to the pre. 

ceding ib 

31. From Dr Moore, 2Sd May 1787. Criticism and 

good advice IT 



BS. From Mr John Hutchison .... 

83. To Mr Walker, at Blair of Athole, encloring 
the ** Humble Petition of Broar Water to the 
Dake of Athole" 

Si To Mr O. Bunu, 17th Sept. Account of his 
tour through the Highlands 

85. From Mr Ramsay of Ochtertyre, 82d October, 
enclosing Latin inscriptions, with transla- 
tioDS, and tlie tale of Omeron Cameron 

36 From Mr Walker ... 

37. From BIr A M .... 

3& Mr Ramsay to the Rer. W. Young, 2Sd Oct in. 
trodudng our Poet 

39. Blr Ramsay to Dr Blacklock, ^7th Oct. Anec 

dotes of Scottish Songs for our Puet 

40. From Mr John Murdoch, in London, 28th Oct 

in answer to No. 5 

41. From Mr , Gordon Castle, Slst Oct 1787, 

acknowledging a song sent to Lady Char, 
lotte Gordon 

42. From the Rer. J. Skinner, 14th November, 

1787. Some account of Scottbh Poems 

4a From Mrs , 30th Nor. enclosing Erse 

Songs, \rith the Music 

44. To Dairy ro pie, Esq. CongratuUtion on 

his becoming a poet Praise of Lord Glen. 


. n 










Written on re> 





cairn .... 

45. To Mrs Dunlop, 2l8t Jan. 178& 

covery from sickness 

46. Extract to the same, 12th Feb. 1788. 

of himself 

47. To the same, 7th March 178a Who had heard 

that he had ridiculed her .... 

4a To Mr Cleghorn, Slat March 1788, mentioning 
his baring composed the first stanza of the 
Chevalier^ Lament ib. 

40. From Mr Cleghorn, 27th April, in reply to the 
above, llie Chevalier^s Lameut in full, in a 
note ib. 

60. To Mrs Dunlop, 88th April, giving an account 
of his prospects 

51. From the Rev. J. Skinner, 88th April 1788, en. 
closing two songs, one by himself, the other 
by a Buchan ploughman ; the songs printed 
at large 

68. To Professor D. Stewart, 3d May. Thanks for 
his friendship 

5a Extract to Mrs Dunlop, 4th May. Remarks on 
Dryden^s Virgil, and Pope^ Odyssey 

54. To the same, 27th May. General Reflections 

55. To the Rame, at Mr Dunlop's, Haddington, 13th 

June 178a Account of his marriage 
W. To Mr P. Hill, with a present of a cheese 
57. To Mrs Dunlop, 2d August 178a With lines 

on a hermitage 
5a To the same, 10th August Farther account of 

his marriage 

59. To the same, 16th August Reflections on Hu. 

man Life 

60. To R. Graham, Esq. of Fintry. A petition in 

verse for a situation in the Excise 

61. To Mr P. Hill, Ist Oct 1788. Critidsm on a 

poem, entitled, *' An Address to Loch.Lo. 
mond** ... ..... 

62. To Mrs Dunlop, at Moreham Maines, 13th No. 


aa To ••••, 8th Nov. Defence of the family of 
Uie Stuarts. Baseness of insulting fallen 









61 To Mrs Danlop, 17th Dee. with tfaa soldier'fe 

Bong— *< Go fetch to me a pint of wine** . 37 

65i To Miss DaTlea, a yonng Lady who had heard 
he had been maldng a ballad on ber^endoaing 
that ballad n» 

66. To Sir John Whltefoord 88 

67. From Mr G. Bums, Ist Jan. 1789. Reflections 

suggested by the day lb. 

68. To Mrs Dunlop, 1st Jan. Reflections suggested 

by the day ib. 

69. To Dr Moore, 4th Jan. Aecoont of his situa. 

tlon and pfrospeets 39 

70. To Bishop Oeddes, 3d February. Account of 

his situation and prospects .... 40 

71. From the Rev. P. Carfrae, 8d January 1789. 

Requesting advice as to the publishing Mr 
Myloe^ poems lb. 

72. To Mrs Dunlop, 4th March. Reflections after a 

visit to Edinburgh 41 

73. To the Rev. P. Carfrae, in answer to No 71 

74 To Dr Moore. Inclosing a poem 

75. To Mr Hill. Apoetrophe to Frugality 

7& To Mrs Dunlop. With a sketch of an epistle in 

verse to the Right Hon. C. J. Fox 
77. To Mr Cunningham. With the first draught of 

the poem on a Wounded Hare 
7a From Dr Gregory. Criticism of the poem on a 

Wounded Hare 

79. To Mr M*Aul«y of Dumbarton. Aeoovmt of 

his situation 

8a To Mrs Dnnlopi Reflections on Religion 

81. From Dr Moore. Good advice 

St. From Ikflss J. Little. A poetess in humble life, 

witli a poem in praise of our Bard 
Sa From Mr . Some account of Ferguson . 

84. To Mr . In answer .... 

85. To Mrs Dunlop. Praise of Zeluco 









An epistle in verse 
Poetical reply to 



86. From Dr Blacklock. 

87. To Dr BlacUock. 
above 60 

sa To R. Graham, Esf. lodosing some election- 
eering ballads ib. 

89. To Bdhrs Dunlop. SmIous and interesting re. 

flections 61 

9a To Sir John Sinclair. Account of a book society 

among the farmers in Nithsdale . . . 5S 

91. To Mr Gilbert Bums. With a Prologue spoken 

in the DnmfHes Theatre .lb. 

98. To Mrs Dunlop. Some aoeonot of Falconer. 

author of the Shipwreck .... 53 

9a FVom Bfr Cunningham. Inquiries of our Bard 54 

94. To Mr Cunningham. In reply to the above . ib. 

95. To Mr HilL Order for books .... 55 

96. To Mrs Dnnlopi Remarks on the Lounger, 
and on the writings of Mr Maekensie . 56 

97. From Mr Cunningluun. Account of the death 
of Bfrs Monboddo 57 

9a To Dr Moore. Thanks for a present of Zeluco ib. 
38 99. To Mrs Dunlop. Written under wounded pride 66 

100. To Bfr Cunningham, 8th August Aspirations 

33 after independence ib. 

101. From Dr Blacklock, 1st September 1790. Po. 
etical letter of Friendship . ib. 

34 102. Extract from Mr Cunningham, 14th October. 
Suggesting snlt}ects for our Poet*b muse . 60 

35 lOa To Bfr Dunlop, November 179a Congratula- 
tions on the birth of her grandson . ib. 

104. To Mr Cunningham, 23d Jan. 1791, with an 

36 i elegy on Miss Burnet of Monboddo . ib 










10&. To Mr HIU, I7th Jan Indignant Apostrophe 
to Poverty . . . • • • 

106. From A. F. Tytlcr, Esq. 12tli March. Criti- 

cism on Tam o* Shanter • . . • 

107. To A. F. Tytler, Esq. in reply to the abore . 

108. To Mrs Donlop, 7th February 1791. Endoa- 

ing his elegy on Miss Bornet 
iOa To Lady W. ML Constable, acknowledging a 
present of a snuff-binc 

110. To Mrs Graham of Rntry, enclosing " Queen 

Mary*s Lament" 

111. From the Rer. G. Baird, 8th February 1781, 

requesting assistance In publishing the poems 
of Michael Bruce 63 

112. To the Rev. G. Baird, in reply to the above . ib. 

113. To Dr Moore, 28th February 1791, enclosing 

Tarn o* Shanter, &c. lb- 

111. From Dr Moore, 29th March, with remarics on 
Tam o^ Shanter, &c 

115. To the Rev. A. Alison, 14th Feb. acknow. 

lodging his present of the ** Essays on the 
Principles of Taste," with remarks on the 

116. To Mr Cunningham, 12th March, with a Ja- 

cobite song, &c. 66 

1)7. ToMrsDuniop, 11th April. Comparison be. 

tween female attractions in high and humble 

life ib. 

11& To Mr Cunningham, l?th June, requesting his 

interest for an oppressed Mend 
lia From the Earl of Buchao, I7th June 1791, in. 

viting over our Bard to the coronation of the 

bust of Thomson on Ednam hill 
120. To the Earl of Buchan, in reply 
12*1. From the Earl of Buchan, 16th Sept 1791, pro. 

posing a sut^ect for our Foetus muse • 

J22. To Lady E. Cunningham, enclosing '* The La- 

ment for James, Earl of Glencairn" 
123. To Mr Aimlie. State of his mind after inebri. 

ation 60 

121 Frum Sir John Wbitefoord, 16th Oct Thanks 

for **The Lament on James, Earl of Glen- 

caim** ib. 

125. From A. F. Tytler, Esq. 27th November 1791. 

Criticism on the Whistle and the Lament . ib. 

126. To Miss Davies. Apology for neglecting her 

commands-~moral reflections . . • 70 

127. To Mrs Dunlop, 17th December, enclosing 

** The song of Death" 71 

12a To Mrs Dunlop, 5th January 1792, acknow- 
ledging the present of a cup . . ib. 
129. To Mr William Smellie, 22d January, intro- 
ducing Mrs Riddel 72 

L'W. To Mr W. Nic<>l, 20th February. Ironical 

thanks fur advice - . ib. 

131. To Mr Cunningham, 3d March 1792. Com- 

missions his arms to be cut on a seal— moral 
reflections 73 

132. IV Mrs Dunlop, 22d Angu»t Account of his 

meeting with Miss L B , and enclos- 
ing a song on her ib. 

13a 1 o Mr Cunningham, 10th Sept Wild Apoa- 

trophe to a Spirit ! 74 

134. 1 o Mrs Dunlop, 24th September. Account of 

his family 75 

135 Vo Mrs Dunlop. Letter of condolence under 

affliction ^^ 

UU. To Mrs Dunlop, 6th December 1792, with a 

poem entitled, ** The Rights of IVoman" . ib. 










137. To Miss B of York, 21st Blarch 1793. Let. 

ter of friendship , 77 

138. To Miss C , August 1793. Character and 

temperament of a poet 78 

13a To John M'Murdo, Esq. December 179S. Re- 

pa3ring money ..••.•• ib. 

140. To Miss B , advising her what play to be. 

speak at the Domfries Theatre ... 79 

141. To a Lady in favour of a Player^ Benefit . ib. 

142. Extract to Mr , 1794. On his prospects 

in the Exdse ib. 

143. To Mrs R lb. 

144. To the same. Describes his melandioly feelings 80 

145. To the same, lending Werter . . . . ib. 

146. To the same, on a return of interrupted Mend- 

ship ib. 

147. To the same, on a temporary eatrangement . ib. 

148. To John Syme, Esq. Reflections on the hap- 

idness of Mr O— • 81 

149 To Bfiss — , requesting the return of MS& 

lent to a deceased friend . . . . . ib. 
150. To Mr Cunningham, 25th February, 1794. 

Melancholy reflection— cheering prospects of 

a happier world ib. 

151- To Mrs R Supposed to be written from 

** The dead to the living" .... 

152. To Mrs Donlop, 15th December 1795. Reflec- 

tions on the situation of his family, if he 
should die— praise of the poem entitied *' The 

153. To the same, in London, 20th December 1795 . 
15t. To Mrs IU-— , 20th January 179& Thanks 

for the travels of Anacharsis .... 
155. To Mrs Dunlop, 31st January 179& Account 

of the death of his daughter, and of his own 

iU health ib. 

156w To Mrs R , 4th June 179& Apology for 

not going to the birth-night assembly . . ib. 
157. To Mr Cunningham, 7th July 1796. Account 

of his illness and of his poverty— anticipation 

of his death ib. 

15a To Mrs Bums. Sea-bathing afF>rds littie re- 

lief ......... 86 

150. To Mrs Dunlop, 12th July 1706. Last fare- 

well * . .... . ib. 


The twa dogs : a tale 89 

Scotch Drink 91 

The author's earnest cry and prayer to the Scotch 

representatives in the House of Commons . 92 

The Holy Fair 94 

Death and Dr Hornbook 97 

The Brigs of Ayr 98 

The ordination 101 

The Calf KB 

Address to the Deil ib. 

The death and dying words of Poor Mailie . 104 

Poor Mailie*s Elegy ib. 

ToJ. S*»** 105 

A Dream 106 

The Vision 108 

Address to the Unco Guid, or the Rigidly Righteous 1 1 1 

Tam Samson's Elegy ib. 

Halloween . H* 

The Auld Farmer's New. year Morning Salutation 

to his Auld Mare Maggie . .116 
To a Mouse ' >" 



A Winter Night U7 

Epistle to Davie, a Brother Foet . . • .118 

The Lament 119 

Oespondency : An Ode •••••. 180 

Winter : A Dirge 121 

The Cotter's Saturday Night .... lb. 

Man was made to Moom : A Dirge • • .183 
A Prayer in the Prospect of Death . • 184 

Stanzas on tlie same occasion 125 

Verses left at a Friend's House . . . . ib. 

The First Psalm Ib. 

A Prayer 126 

The ftnt six yerses of tlie Ninetieth FSalm • . ib. 

To a Mountain Daisie lb. 

To Ruin 127 

To Misa L— — , with Beattie^ Poems, for a New- 
Year's Gi/t ib. 

Epbtle to a Young Friend ib. 

On a Scotch Bard gone to the West Indies 

To a Haggis 

A Dedication to O H -, Esq. 


To a Louse, on seeing one on a Lady^ Bonnet at 

Church 130 

Address to Edinburgh 131 

EpUtle to J. LaprMk, an old Scottish Bard . . ib. 
To the Same ........ 133 

EpisUe to W. S , Ochiitree 134 

Eptstie to J. R , enclosing s<Hne Poems . . 135 

John Barleycorn : A Ballad 136 

A Fragment, * When Guildford good our mot 

stood,* 137 

Song, * It was upon a Lammas Night,' . . . ib. 
Song, * Now westlin winds, and slaught'ring guns,* 138 
SoDg, * Behind yon hills where Stincluu- flows,* . ib. 
Green grow the Rashes : A Fragment . . 139 

Song, ' Again rejoicing Nature sees,* . . . ib. 
Song, *The gloomy Night is gathering fast,' . . 140 
Sling, ' From thee, Eliza, I must go,* . . . ib. 
llie Farewell, to the Bretluren of St James^ Lodge, 

Tariwlton .... . . . ib. 

Song, * No churchman am I for to ndl and to write,* 141 
Written in Friar's Carse Hermitage . . ■ ib. 

Ode to the Memory of Mrs — , of . 148 

Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson . . . ib. 
Lament of Mary Queen of Scots . • • . 143 
To Robert Graham, Esq. of Flntra . • . .144 
Lament for James, E^l of Glencaim . . .145 
Lines sent to Sir John Whitefoord, with the forego- 
ing Poem ib. 

Tarn o' Shanter : A Tale ... . . ib. 
On seeing a woundtnl Hare a fellow had Shot at . 147 
Address to the Shade of Thomson . . . .148 
Epitaph on a celebrnted Ruling Elder . . . ib. 
I I on a noby Polemic ib. 

- on Wee Jolmny ib. 

I — for the Author^ Father . . • . ib. 

- for R. A. Esq ib. 

for O. H. Esq ib. 

A Bard's Epitaph ib. 

On CHptain Grose's Peregrinations . • . .149 

On Mbs Cruikshanics ib. 

Song, * Anna, thy charms my t>ofiom (ire,* . . 150 
On the death of John M'Leod, Esq. . . . ib. 

Htimble Petition of Bruar Water . . . . ib. 

On Scaring some Water Fowl 151 

Written at the Inn in Taymoutli . . . . ib. 

at the Fall of Fyera 159 

On the Birth of a Posthumous Chi2(i . . . ib. 

The Whiftle ........ ib. 


Second Epistle to Daris, a Brother Foet . . 158 

On my Early Days \S4 

Song, * In IfaadUiiM there dwells tltn proper young 

Belles,' it. 

OnthedeathofSlrJtmeeHnntwBlidr *. ib! 

Written on the blank leaf of A cqp7 of the Ftoeme 

preeented to an old Sweetheart, then married IftC 
The JoUy Beggars : A Cantata . • ib. 

The Kirk's Alarm : A Satire 150 

The Twa Herds ,160 

The Henpecked Hosband ., . 161 

Elegy on the year 1778 ib. 

Versee written on the Window of the Inn at Carron ib. 
Lines wrote by Bams on his Death-bed . ib. 

Lines delivered by Boms at a Meeting of the Dom. 

fries-shire Volonteers 162 

A Vision ......... 173 

Address to W. Tytier, Esq. ib. 

To a Gentleman who had sent a Newspaper and 

offered to continue it 175 

On Pastoral Poetry ib. 

SketGh.—New Year's day 176 

On Mr WUliam Smellle 177 

On the Deatii of Mr Riddel ib. 

Inscription for an Altar to Independence • . ib. 
Monody on a Lady ftuned for her caprioe . iU 

Answer to a Surveyor's mandate .178 

Impromptu on Mrs — % Birth Day . .179 

To Miss Jessy L—— ib. 

Extempore to Mr S e ...... ibw 

Dumfries Voluntews 180 

To Mr MitcheU ib. 

To a Oentieman whom he had oflboded . . ib. 

On life, addressed to CoL De Peyster . . . ib. 

Address to the Tootluache 181 

To R. Graham, Esq. on receiving a favour . 189 

Epitaph on a Friend ... • . . ib. 

Grace before Dinner . ib. 

On Sensibility, to Birs Donlop 183 

On taking leave at a place in the Highlands . . ib. 
Written in Friars-^^ne Hermitage, on Nithside . 31 

Epistie to R. Graham, Esq. 83 

On seeing a Wounded Hare 44 

To Dr Biacklock 50 

Prologue 53 

Elegy on the late Bfise Burnet of Mooboddo . 60 

The Rights of Woman 77 

Address, spoken by Bfiia Fontenelle . 83 



Adieu! a heart- warm, fond adieu I 

Admiring Nature in her wildest grace 

Adown winding Nith I did wander 

Again rejoicing Nature sees 

Again the silent wheels of time 

A guid New.year I wish thee, Maggie 

Ah ope. Lord Gregory, thy door . • 

AU hail I inexorable lord 

Among the heathy Mils and ragged woods 

Ance mair I hail tiiee, thou gloomy December 

An* O for ane and twenty, Tam 

An honest man here lies at rest . 

Anna, thy charms my bosom fire 

A rose-bud by my early walk 

As down the bum tliey took their way 

As I stood by yon roofless tower 




















As Mailie an* her Umbs thegiUier . . .104 

Awa wi' yoor witchcraft o* beauty's alarms . . 238 
A* ye wha live by soupe o* drink . . .128 

Beaateoos roee-bud, young and gay . .140 

Behind yon hilli where Stinchar flows . . .138 
Behold the hoar, the boat arrive . . . .210 
Below thir stanes lie Jamie^s banes . . . .148 
Blythe, biythe, and merry was she . . . . Ifi3 

Blythe hae I been on yon bill 202 

Bonnie Wee thing, cannie wee thing . .168 

But lately seen in gladsome green .... 224 
By Allan stream I chanced to rore .... 206 
By yon castle wa', at the close of the day . . 60 
Caost thou leare me thus, my Katy • . 228 

Ca^ the yowes to the knowes 219 

Clarinda, mistress of my soul 164 

Come let me take thee to my breast ■ • . . 206 
Contented wi' little, and cantie wi* mair . . 228 

Dear S , the sleest, pankie thief . . .105 

Deluded swain, the pleasure ...*,. 214 
Does haughty Gaul invasion threat . • .180 

Duncan Gray came here to woo . . . .192 

Dweller in yon dungeon dark 142 

Edinal Scotia's darUiig seat 131 

Expect na, ^, in this narration . . . .129 

Fairest maid on Devon banks 240 

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face .... 198 
Farewell thou stream that winding flows . . 200 
Farewell thou fair day, ye green earth, and ye skies 71 
Fate gave the word, the arrow sped . . .172 
Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes . 171 
For lords or kings I dinna mourn . • . .160 
Forlorn, my love, no comfort near .... 236 
Friend of the Poet tried and leal . . . .180 

From thee, Elisa, I must go 140 

Gane is the day and mirk's the night . . .167 

Go fetch to me a pint o' wine 37 

Green grow the rashes, O 139 

Guid momin' to your M^esty . . . .106 

Had I a cave on some wild distant shore . . 206 
Hail, Poesy I thou Nymph reserved . . . 175 

Ha I whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlle . . .130 

HasauIdK seen the Deii . . .111 

Hear, Land o' Cakes, and brither Sc<ils . . . 149 
Here awa, there awa, wandering Willie . . 196 

The same altered 197 

Here Souter '■' ■- in death does sleep . . 148 

He who of R— k.n sang, lies stiff and dead . . 101 
Here is the glen, and here Uie bower . . . 218 
Here^s a health to ane I lo'e dear .... 239 
Here where the Scottish Muse iounortal lives . 218 
How can my poor heart be glad • . . . . ib. 
How cold is that bosom which folly once flred . 177 

How cruel are the parents S33 

How lang and dreary is the night ; • . . 223 
How pleasant the l>anlc8 of the dear-winding De- 

von lix 

Husband, hubband, cease your strife • . . 216 
I call no goddess to icspire my strains . . 182 

I gaed a waefu' gate yestreen 166 

I gat your letter, winsome WillJo .... 134 

I hae a wife o* my ain Ixiii 

I lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend . . .127 

I mind it weel, in early date 15t 

I'm three tiroes doubly o'er your debtor . . . 153 
in Mauchline there dwells six proper young Belles 154 
In simmer when the hay was mawu . . . 168 
Inhuman man I curse on thy barbarous art . . 147 
Instead of a song, boys, Til give you a toast , . 162 


I sing of a whistle, a whistle of worth . . I5i 

Is there a whim-inspired fool 148 

Is there, for honest poverty 23C 

It was the charming month of May .... 225 
It was upon a Lammas night . . . .137 

Jockey^ ta'en the parting Idas 181 

John Anderson my jo, John 166 

Keen blaws the wind o'er Donnoeht-head , . 222 
Ken you ought o* Captain Grose . . . . ISai 
Kilmarnock wabsters, fidge an^ daw . . .101 
Kind Sir, I've read your pi^r through . . 175 

Know thou, O stranger to the fiune • . . 148 

Lament in rh]rme, lament in prose . . • .104 

Lassie wi' the lintwhite locks 225 

Last May a braw wooer cam down the lang glen . 237 
Late crippled of an arm, and now a leg . .141 

Let me wander where I will 216 

Let not woman e'or complain 223 

Let other poets raise a fracas ..... 91 

Long, long the night 232 

Loud blaw the froety breeies 162 

Louis, what reck I by thee 171 

Mark yonder pomp of costly Awhion .234 

Maxwell, if merit here you crave . .221 

Musing on the roaring ocean 163 

My Chloiis, mark how green the groves . . 225 

My curse upon yi ur venom'd stang . .181 

My heart is a-breaking, dear Tlttie . . .107 

My heart is sair, I darena tell .... 173 

My honoured Colonel, deep I feel .... 180 
My lord, I know your noble ear .... 150 
My loved, my honour'd, much respected friend . 121 
Nae gentle dames, tlio' e'er sae fafr . . . 178 

No churchman am I for to rail and to write • . 141 
No more of your guests, be they titled or not . 179 
No more, ye warblers of the wood, no more • . 177 
Now in her green mantle blythe nature arraya . 230 
Now Nature hangs her mantle green . . . 143 
Now simmer blinks on flowery braes . . . 162 
Now spring lias dad the grove in green . . . 235 
Now rosy May comes in wi' flowers . . . 208 
Now westlin' winds and slaoght*ring guns • • 138 

O a' ye pious godly flocks 160 

O bonnie was yon rosy brier 235 

O cam ye here the fight to shun . . . .175 
O condescend, dear charming maid . . . .215 
O Death ! thou tyrant fell and bloody . . .149 
O gin my love were yon red rose . . , .209 
Of a* the airts the wind can blaw . . . .165 
O had the malt thy strength of mind . .178 

Oh open the door, some pity to show . . . 19q 
O ken ye what Meg o' the Mill has gotten . . 197 

O Lassie art thou sleei^ng yet 231 

O leeze me on my spinning wheel . . . . 16S 

O leeze me on my wee thing 191 

Old Winter with his frosty beard . . . .179 
O Logan, sweetly didst thou glide .... 202 
O love will venture in where it darena weel be seen 169 

O Mary, at thy window be 195 

O May, thy mom was ne'er sae sweet . . .172 
O mirk, mirk is this midnight hour . . . .195 
O toeikle thinks my love o' my beauty . . . 107 
O my luve's like a red red rose . . .173 

Once fondly loved, and still remember'd dear . 155 

O poortith cauld, and restless love . . . .193 

O PhiUy, happy be that day 227 

Oppress'd with grief, oppress'd wiUi care . . 120 

O rough, rude, ready-witted R . . .135 

Orthodox, orthodox, wha believe in John Knoi^ . 159 





O 8ftw ye bonny Lesley 190 

O saw ye my dear, my Pliely SS8 

O stay, sweet warbling woodlark, stay . . iS2 

O tell na me o* wind and rain SSI 

O this is no my aiu lassie S35 

O ThoQ dread Power who reign'st above . 185 

O Thou Great Being, what thou art ... 126 
O Thou pale orb, that silent shines, . .119 

O Thou, the first, the greatest friend • • .186 
O Thou unlcnown, Almighty Canae . . 18i 

O thoa I wliatever title suit thee . . .108 

O Thou who kindly dost provide . .188 

O Tibbie, I hae seen the day 164 

O wat ye wha's in yon town 178 

O wha is she that Io*e8 me . . • . • 181 

O were I on ParnasisuM* hill 165 

O were my love yon lilarh fair . . 803 

O whistle and Til come to you, ray lad . . .206 

A variation in the chorus 234 

O Willie brewM a peck o* maut . . . .165 

O wert thou in the cauld blast 179 

O ye wha are sae gnid yoorsel Ill 

O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains . . 148 

Raving winds around her blowing . . .163 

Revered defender of beauteous Stuart . . .173 
Right Sir! your text 1*11 prove it true .108 

Sad thy tale, thou idle page 150 

Sae flaxen were her ringlets 280 

Scots, wha hae wi* Wallace bled . . . .818 

Sensibility how charming 188 

She is a winsome wee thing 190 

She*8 fair and fause that causes my smart . . 171 
Should aold acquaintance be forgot . .212 

Sing on, sweet thrush, upon thy leaflestt bough . 179 
Sir, as your mandate did request .... 178 
Sleep'st thou, or wakest thou, fairest creature . 223 
Slow spreads the gloom my soul desires . . . 170 
Some books are lies frae end to end .... 97 
Stop, pass'nger I my story's brief . . .143 

Stay, my charmer, can you leave me ... 168 
SUy, my Willie— yet believe me .... 889 
Streams tiiat glide in orient plains • . . Ixi 

Sweet fat the eve on Craigie-bum . . . 838 

Sweet flowVet, pledge o* roeikle love .158 

The Catrine woods were yellow seen . .145 

The day retuma, my bosom bums . . . .164 
The friend whom wild from wisdom's way . 180 

The gloomy night is gath'ring fast . .140 

The hunter lo'es the rooming son . . 198 

The lamp of day, with ilUpresaging glare . . 154 
Their groves o' sweet myrtle let foreign lands 

reckon 233 

The lazy mbt hangs from the brow of the hill . 164 

The lovely lans o' Inverness 172 

The man, in life, wherever pUced . . . .125 

The poor man weeps — here O n sleeps ' . .146 

The simple Bard, rough at the rustic plough . 96 

The small birds rejoice in the green leaves returning 80 
The smiling spring comes in rejoicing . . .171 
The sun had closed the winter day .... 108 
The Thames flows proudly to the sea . .166 

The wind blew hollow frae the hills . . .145 

The wintry west extends his blast . . . .121 
There's auld Rob Morris that wons in yon glen . 192 
There^l braw, braw lads on Yarrow braes . .193 
There was a lass and she was fair .... 803 
There was onoe a day, but old Time was then young 174 
There was three kings into the east . .136 

They snool me sair, and hand me 
Thickest night oVrhang my dwelling 
Thine am I, my fiiithfai fttfr 
Thine be the volumes, Jessy fahr 
This day. Time winds th* exhaust«d cbala 
Thoa hast left me ever, Jami6 . 
Thoa of aa independent mind 
Thoa sweetest minstrel of the grore 
Thoa whom chance may hither lead 
Thoa, who thy honoar as thy Qod reverest 
Tia friendship's pledge, my young fair friend 
— — — to Crodiallan came • 

*Twaa e'en, the dewy fleUs were green 

*Twaa in that place o* Scotland's Isle 

True hearted was he the sad swaiu o' the Yarrow 

Torn again, thoa fair Ellxa 

*Twas nae her bonnie blue e'e was my ruin 

Upon a simmer Sunday mom 

Upon that night, when foiries light . 

We cam na here to riew year warks 

Wee, modest* erimson-tipped flower 

Wee, sleekit, oowVin, tim'roos beastie 

What can a yoong lassie, what eball a yoang lassie 

When bitlQg Boreas, fell and doara 

When chaposan MUies leave the street 

When chUl November's surly blaat . 

When Death's dark stream I ferry o'er . 

When GiUlford good oar pilot stood . 

When lyart leaves bestrew the yird 

When o'er the hill the eastern star . 

When wild war's deadly blast was blawn 

Where are the Joys I hae met in the morning 

The same with an additional stanza 

Where braving angry winter's storms • 

Where Cart rins rowin to the sea • 

While briers an* woodbines budding green 

While larks with little wing 

While new-ca'd kye rout at the stake 

While virgin spring, by £den*« flood 

While winds frae aff Ben Lomond blaw . 

Whoe'er thou art, O reader, know . 

Why am 1 loth to leave this earthly scene 

Why, why tell thy !over • • • . 

Why, ye tenants of the lake 

WiUie Wastle dwalt on Tweed 

Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary . 

Wilt thoa be my dearie .... 

The same 

With musing deep, astoniah'd stare 
Ye banks, and braea, and streams around 
Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon 
Ye Irish lords, ye knights and tquires 
Yestreen I got a pint of wine 

. 169 
. 16S 
. 815 
. 179 
. 175 
. 811 
. 1T7 
. 816 
. 141 
. 145 
. 836 
. 177 
. 80 
. 196 
. 169 
. 233 
. 94 
. 118 
. 161 
. IX 
. 117 





1. Mr Thomson to Mr Bums. 1792. Desiring 

the Bard to furnish rerses for some of the 
Scottish airs, and to rerise former songs . 187 

2. Mr B. to Mr T. Promising assistance . . ib. 

3. Mr T. to Mr B. Sending some tunes . 188 

4. Mr B. to Mr T. With « The Lr^ Rig,' and 

. • WUl ye go to the Indies, my Mary • . ib. 

5. Mr B. to Mr T. With * My wife's a winsome 

wee thing/ and * O saw ye bonny Lesley * . 190 




6. Mr B. to Mr T. With * Highland Mary . 190 

7. Mr T to Mr B. Thanks and critical obserra. 

tions • '91 

8. Mr B. to Mr T. With an additional stansa to 

♦ The Lee Rig * 192 

9. Mr a to Mr T. With * Auld Rub Morris ' and 

* Duncan Gray * . . . . . ib. 

10. Mr.B. to Mr T. With * O Poortith Cauld,' &c. 

and * Galla Water • 198 

11. Mr T. to Mr B. Jan. 1793. Desiring anecdotes 

on the origin of particular songs. Tytler of 
Woodhooselee — Pleyel— sends P. Pindar's 

* Lord Gregory.* Postscript from the Hon. 

A. Erskine 194 

12. Mr B. to Mr T. Has Mr Tytler's anecdotes, 

and means to give his^wn — sends his own 

• Lord Gregory ' 195 

13. Mr a to Mr T. With * Mary Morrison ' . ib. 
I*. Mr a to Mr T. With • Wandering WUlie ' . 196 
15. Mr B. to Mr T. With * Open the door to me, 

Oh." ib. 

1& Mr B. to Mr T. WiUi< Jessie' . . . ib. 

17. Mr T. to Mr a With a Ust of songs, and 

• Wandering WiUie * altered . . • .197 
IS Mr B. to Bfr T. * When wild war's deadly 

blast was blawn,* and * Meg o' the Mill * . ib. 

19. Mr B. to Mr T. Voice of Coila— criticism— 

Origin of* The Lass o'Patie's Mill' . . 198 

SO. Mr T. to Mr B 199 

21. Mr B. to Mr T. Simplicity requisite in a song 
-^ne poet should not mangle the works of 

another SOO 

92, Mr B. to Mr T. * Farewell, thou stream that 
winding flows'— Wishes that tlie national 
music may preserve its native features . ib. 

23. Mr T. to Mr B. Thanks and observations . 201 

24. Mr B. to Mr T. With * Blythe hM I been on 

yon hill' lb. 

25. Mr B. to Mr T. With * O Logan, sweetly didst 

thou glide*-— 'O gin my love were yon red 
rose,' &c 202 

20. Mr T. to Mr B. Enclosing a note— Thanks . 203 
27. Mr B. to Mr T. With * There was a lass and 

she was fair ' ib. 

2a Mr a to Mr T. Hurt at the idea of pecuniary 

recompense — Remarks on songs . . 204 

29. Mr T. to Mr B. Musical expression . . ib. 

30. Mr a to Mr T. For Mr Qarke . . .205 

31. Mr B. to Mr T. With « PhlUis the fair ' . . ib. 

32. Mr T. to Mr B. Mr Allan— Drawing from 

♦ John Anderson my jo ' . . . ib. 

33. Mr B. to Mr T. With • Had I a cave,' &c. 

Some airs common to Scotland and Ireland . 206 

34 Mr B. to Mr T. With * By Allan stream I 

chanced to rove * ib. 

35 Mr B. to Mr T. With * Whistle and 111 come 

to you, my lad,' and * Awa wl' your belles 

and your beauties ' 207 

36. Mr B. to Mr T. With * Come let roe take thee 

to my breast * ib. 

'Jl. Mr B. to Mr T. * Daintie Davie ' ... 208 
3a Mr T. to Mr B. Delighted with the produc 

tions of Burns^s muse ..... ib. 
89. Mr B. to Mr T. With • Bruce to his troops at 

Bannockbum 200 

4a Mr B. to Mr T. With * Behold the hour, the 

boat arrive' • . ib. 


41. Mr T. to Mr B. Observations on * Bruoe to his 

troops* 210 

42. Mr B. to Mr T. Remarks on songs in Bfr T's 

list— His own method of funning a aong^ 

* Thou hast left me ever, Jamie * — * Where are 
the Jo]rs I hae met In the morning *— * Auld 
lang syne ' ib 

43. Mr B. to Mr T. With a variation of * Ban. 

nockbnm' 21*i 

44l Mr T. to Mr B. Thanks and observations . 218 

45. Mr B. to Mr T. * On Bannockbum '—sends 

* Fair Jenny* . ib. 

46. Mr B. to Mr T. With * Deluded swain, the 

pleasure' — Remarks 214 

47. Mr B. to Mr T. With * Thine am I, my faith. 

ful f^r > — * O condescend, dear charming 
maid * — • The Nightingale * — * Laura *— (the 
three last by O. Tnrnbull) . . . .215 
4a Mr T. to Mr B. Apprehensions— Thanks . 216 

49. Mr B. to Mr T. With 'Husband, husband, 

cease your strife,* and *WUt thou be my 
dearie * Ib. 

50. Mr T. to Ifr B. 1794 Melancholy comparison 

between Boms and Carlini— Mr Allan has 
begun a sketch from the Cottar's Saturday 
Night 217 

51. Mr B. to Mr T. Praise or Mr Allan—* Banks of 

Cree* ib. 

52. Mr B. to Mr T. Pleyel in France — * Here 

where the Scottish Muse immortal lives,* 
presented to Miss Graham of Fintry, witli a 
copy of Mr Thomson's collection . . . 218 
5aL Ifr T. to Mr B. Does not expect to hear from 
Pleyel soon, bnt desires to be prepared with 
the poetry . .^ ib. 

54. MratoMrT. With 'On the seas and fisr away' ib. 

55. Mr T. to Mr B. Criticism .219 
5& Mr a to Mr T. With * Ca' the yowes to the 

knowes' ib.* 

57. Mr B. to Mr T. With * She says 6he loes me 

best of a' '— * O let me in,' &c.— Staoca to Dr 
Maxwell 220 

58. Mr T. to Mr B. Advising him to write a Mu- 

sical Drama 221 

59. Mr T. to Mr B. Has been examining Scottish 

collections— Ritson — Difficult to obtidn an> 
cient melodies in their original state . . ib. 

60. Mr B. ta Mr T. Recipe for producing a love. 

song— * Saw ye my Phely * — Remarks and 
anecdotes — * How long and dreary is the 
night ^—* Let not woman e*er complain*— 
* The lover's morning salute to his mistress 
— < The Aold Man *— ' Keen blaws the wind 
o'er Donnochthead,* in a note .... 222 

61. Mr T. to Mr B. MHshes he knew the inspiring 

Fair One— Ritsou's historical essay not inte. 
resting^— Allan— Maggie Lander . 224 

62. Mr a to Mr T. Has begun his Anecdotes, &c 

— * My Chloris mark how green the groves'— 
Love—* It was the charming month of May * 
— < Lassie wi* the lint, white lodes '—History 
of the Air *Ye banks and braes o* bonny 
Doon*— James Miller— Clarke — The black 
keys — Instances of the difficulty of tracing the 
origin of andent airs ih. 

63. Mr T. to Mr B. With three copies of the Scot- 

tish airs 229 




64. Mr B. to Mr T. With * O PhUly, happy be that 
day *— Atarting note— * Contented wi* little, 
and cantie wi* mair *— * Caaat thoa leare me 
thoa, my Katy *— (The reply, * Stay my Wil. 
lie— yet believe me,* in a note)— Stock and 
horn •••••• 2S7 

6&. Mr T. to Mr B. Praise— Desires more songs of 

the hamorotis cast— Means to have a picture 

%>m * The Soldier^ Retom * ... 889 

06. Mr B. to Mr T. With * My Nannie's awa* .. 830 

er! Mr B. to Mr T. 1795. With * For a' that an' 

a* that,* and * Sweet fa^ the ere on Craigie- 

bom* ib. 

68. Mr T to Mr B. Thaaks 831 

60. Mr B. to Mr T. * O Lassie, art thou sleeping 

yet,* and the Answer ib. 

7a Mr B. to Mr T. * Dispraise of Ecclefechan * .838 

71. Mr T. to Mr B. Thanks ib. 

78. Mr B. to Mr T. * Address to the Woodlark •— 

* Ob Cliloris being 111 ' — * Their groves o* 
sweet myrtle,* &c— * Twas na her bonny 
blue e*e,* &c. ib. 

73. Mr T. to Mr B. With Allan's design from 

* The Cotter*s Saturday Night . .833 

74. Mr B. to Bfr T. With * How cruel are the pa- 

rents,* and * Mark yonder pomp of cortly 

fashion* . ib. 

li. Mr B. to Mr T. Thanks for Allan's designs . 834 
7& Mr T. to Bfr B. Compliment • . . . ib. 
77. Mr B. to Mr T. With an improvement in 

* Wliistle and Til come to yoo, my lad — *p 

this is no my ain lassie *— * Mow luring has 
clad the grove in green *— ^ O bonnie was yon 
roeie brier*— **Tis Friendship's pledge, my 
yonog, fiUr friend * 8S4 

78. Mr T. to Mr B. Introdndag Dr Briaaton . 836 

79. Mr B. to Mr T. * Forlorn my love, no comfort 

near* ib. 

80. Mr B. to Mr T. * Last May a braw wooer cam 

down the lang glen *— * Why, why tell thy 
lover,* a fragment ••.... 837 

81. Mr T. to Mr &• • •• • .ib. 
88. Mr T. to Mr B. ITSXL After an awful pause . ib. 
83. Mr B. to Mr T. Thaaks for P. Pindar, &e.— 

* Hey for a lass wi* a tocher * .838 

81 Mr T. to Mr Bw Allan has designed some plates 

for an octavo action ib. 

85. Mr B. to Mr T. AflUcted by sickness, but 

pleased with Mr Allan's etchings . . ib. 

86. Mr T. to lir B. Sympathy— encouragement . 830 

87. lir B. to lir T. With < Here's a health to aoe 

Ilo*edear' ib 

88w Mr B. to Mr T. Introducing Mr I^wars— Has 
taken a fimcy to review his songs— hopes to 

recover ib 

80. Mr B. to Mr T. Dreading the horrors of a Jail, 
soUdts the advanoe of live pounds, and en- 
doses *Frireit maid on Devon banks* . .944 
oa Bfr T. to Mr B. Sympathy— Adviaea a volume 
of poetry to be published by subscription, 
Ft>pepnblUiedtbeIliadio . . . . ib 












Though the dialect, in which many of the 
happiest efi'usions of Robert Bums are com- 
posed, be peculiar to Scotland, yet his reputa. 
tion has extended itself beyond the limits of 
that country, and his poetry has been admired 
as the offspring of original genius, by persons 
of taste, in ever^ part of the sister islands. 
The interest excited by his early death, and 
the distress of his infant family, has been felt 
in a remarkable manner, wherever his writings 
have been known ; and these posthumous 
volumes, which give to the world his Works 
complete, and which, it is hoped, may raise 
his Widow and Children from penury, are 
printed and published in England. It seems 
oroper, therefore, to write the memoirs of his 
life, not with the view of their being read by 
Scotchmen only, but alsoby natives of England, 
anB of other countries where the English 
language is spoken or understood. 

Robert Burns was, in reality, what he has 
been represented to be, a Scottish peasant. 
To render the incidents of his humble story 
generally intelligible, it seems, therefore, ad- 
visable to prefix some observations on the 
character and situation of the order to which 
he belonged — a class of men distinguished by 
many peculiarities : by this means we shall 
form a more correct notion of the advantages 
with which be started, and of the obstacles 
which he surmounted. A few observations 
on the Scottish peasantry will not, perhaps, 
be found imworthy of attention in other re- 
spects : and the subject is, in a great measure, 
new. Scotland has produced persons of high 
distinction in every branch of philosophy and 
literature; and her history, while a separate 
and independent nation, has been successfully 
explored. But the present character of the 
people was not then formed ; the nation then 
presented features similar to those which the I 
feudal system and the Catholic religion had j 
diffused over Europe, modified, indeed, by the ; 

peculiar nature of her territory and climate. 
The Reformation, by which such important 
changes were produced on the national charac- 
ter, was speedily followed by the Accession 
of the Scottish monarcbs to the English 
throne; and the period which elapsed from 
that Accession to the Union has been rendered 
memorable, chiefly by those bloody convul- 
sions in which both divisions of the island 
were involved, and which in a considerable 
degree, conceded from the eye of the histo« 
rian the domestic history of the people, and 
the gradual variations in their condition and 
manners. Since the Union, Scotland, though 
the seat of two unsuccessful attempts to re- 
store the House of Stuart to the throne, has 
enjoyed a comparative tranquillity ; and it \a 
since this period that the present character of 
her peasantry has been in a great measure 
formed, though the political causes affecting 
it are to be traced to the previous acts of her 
separate legislature. 

A slight acquaintance with the peasantry of 
Scotland will serve to convince an unpre- 
judiced observer, that they possess a degree of 
intelligence not generally found among the 
same class of men in the other countries ot 
Europe. In the very humblest condition of 
the Scottish peasants, every one can read, and 
most persons are more or less skilled in wnt- 
ing and arithmetic ; and, under the disguise of 
their uncouth appearance, and of their peculiar 
manners and dialect, a stranger will discover 
that they possess a curiosity, and have obtained 
a degree of information, corresponding to these 

These advantages they owe to the legal pro- 
vision made by the parliament of Scotland in 
1616, for the establishment of a school in 
every parish throughout the kingdom, for the 
express purpose of educating the poor ; a law 
which may challenge comparison with any ace 
of legislation to be found in the recoras of 
history, whether we consider the wisdom of 
the ends in view, the simplicity of the means 



employed, or the provisions made to render 
these means effectual to their purpose. This 
excellent statute was repealed on the accession 
of Charles II. in 1660, together with all the 
other laws passed during the commonwealth, 
as not being sanctioned by the royal assent 
It slept during the reigns of Charles and James, 
but was re-enacted precisely in the same terms, 
by the Scottish parliament, after the Revolu- 
tion in 1696 ; and this is the last provision on 
the subject Its effects on the national charac- 
ter may be considered to have commenced 
about the period of the Union ; and doubtless 
it co-operated with the peace and security 
arising from that happy event, in producing 
the extraordinary change in favour of industry 
and good morals, which the character of the 
common people of Scotland has since under- 
gone. * 

The churcluestablishment of Scotland hap- 
pily coincides with the institution just men. 
tioned. which may be called its school -esta. 
blishment. The clergyman, being every where 

* The importance of the national establishment of 
parish.schools in Scotland will justify a short account 
of the legislative provisions respecting it. especially as 
the subject has escaped the notice of all the historians. 

By an act of tlie king (James VI.) and privy council 
of the lOth of December, 1816. It was recommended to 
his bishops to deale and travel with the heritors (land 
proprietors,) and the inhabitants of th«* respective par. 
ishes in their respective dioceses, towards the fixing 
up<m ** some certain^ solid, and sure courne^fur nettling 
and entertaining a school in each parish. This was 
ratified by a statute of Charles I. (the act 1633, chap, b.) 
which empowered the bishop, with the consent of the 
heritors of a parish, or of a majority of the Inhabitants, 
if the heritors refused to attend the meeting, to assess 
every plough of lund (that is, every farm, in proportion 
to the number of ploughs upon it) with a certain sum 
for establishing a school. This wva an ineftiectual pro. 
vision, as depending on the consent and pleasure of the 
heritors and iuhabitants. Therefore a new order of 
things was introduced by Stat. 1646, chap. 17, which 
obliges the heritors and minbter of each parish to meet 
and assess the severxl heritors with the requisite sum 
for building a school-house, and to elect a schoolmaster, 
and modify a salary for him in all time to come. The 
salary is ordered not to be under one hundred, nor 
above two himdred merks, that i», in our present ster- 
ling money, not under £5 lis. I|d. nor above £11 2s. 
3d. and the assessment is to be laid on the land in tlie 
same proportion as it is rated for the support of the 
clergy, and as it regulates the payment of the land-tax. 
But in case the heritors of any parish, or the majority 
of them, should fail to discharge this duty, then the 
persons forming what is called tne Committee of Supply 
of the county (cousisting of the principal landholders!) 
or any five of them ^ are authorized by the statute to 
impose the assessment instead of them, on the repre- 
sentation of the presbytery in which the parish is situ- 
ated. To secure the choice of a proper teacher, the 
right of election by the heritors, by a statute passed in 
l&J, chap. 22, is made subject to the review and control 
of the pretibyttry of the divtrict, who have the examina- 
tion of^the person proposed committed to them, both as 
to his qualifications as a teacher, and as to his proper 
deportment in the oflice when settled in it. The elec. 
tion of the heritors is therefore only a presentment of a 
person for the approbation of the presbytery ; who, if 
they find liim uutit, may declare his incapacity, and thus 
oblige them to elect anew. So far is stated on unques- 
tionable authority.* 

The legal salary of the scho4ilmaster was not incon- 
siderable at the tune it was fixed ; but by the decrease 
in the value of money, it is now certainly inadequate to 
its object ; and it is painful to observe, that the land- 
holders of Scotland resisted the humble application of 
the schoolmasters to the legislature for its iucrease, a 
few year.4 ago. The number of parishes in Scotland is 
877; and if we allow tlie salary of a schoolmaster In 
each to be on an average, seven pounds sterling, the 
amount of the legal provision will be £6,139 sterling. 

• TiM aMilMvtt; of A. Fnttr TyUcr, and David Hume. Eaqrt. 

If we Buppnse tlie wages paid by the scholars to amount 
to twice tnis sum, which is probably beyond the truth, 
the total of the expenses among 1,596,402 persons (the 
whole population of Scotland.) of this most important 
establishment, will be £1MI'7- But on this, as well aa 
on other subjects respecting S(*otlaiid, accurate informa> 
tion may soon be expected from ^r John l^nclair'S 
Analysis of his F.tati8tiC!«, which will complete the im- 
mortal monument he has reared to hia patriotism. 

The benefit arising in Scotland from the instruction 
of the poor, was soon felt ; and by an act of the British 
parliament, 4 Geo. I. chap 6, It is enacted, ** that of the 
moneys arising from the sale of the Scottish estates for- 
feited in the rebellion of 1715. £^.000 sterliug shall be 
convert«'d into a capital stock, the interest of which 
shall be laid out in erecting and maintaining schools in 
the Higlilands. The Society for propagating Chri<ittan 
Knowledge, incorporated iu 1709, have applied a large 
part of their fund for the (lame purpose. Bv their re- 
port, 1st May, 1795, the annual sum employed by them, 
in suppot ting their schools in the Highlands and Islands, 
was £3,913 198. lOd., in which are taught the Knglish 
language, reading and writing, and the principles of 
religion. The scho<ils of the society are additional to 
the legal schools, which, from the great extent of many 
of the Highland parishes, were found InsuflBdent Be- 
sides these established schools, the lower classes of peo- 
ple in Scotland, where the parishet are large, often 
combine together, and establish private scbo<H8 of their 
own, at one of which it was that Bums received the 
principal part of his education. So ounvinced indeed 
are the poor people of Scotland, by experience, of the 
benefit of instruction to their children, that, though 
they may often find It difficult to feed and clothe them, 
some kind of school-lnstruction they almost always pro- 
eure them. 

The influence of the school-establiahment of Scotland 
on the peasantry of that country, seems to have decided 
by experience a question of legislation of the utmost 
importance— wheUier a system of national instructior 
for tlie poor be favourable to morals and good govern- 
ment, in the year 161)8, Fletcher of Salton declared as 
follows ; ** There are at this day in Scotland, two hun- 
dred thousand people begging from door to dfwr. And 
though the number of them be perhaps double to what 
it was formerly, by reason of this present great distresa 
(a famine then prevailed.) yet in all tiroes there have 
been about one hundred thousand of those vagabonds, 
who have lived without any regard or sultJection either 
to the laws of the land, or even those ctf God and Na- 
ture; fathers incestuously accompanying with their 
own daughters, the son with the mother, and the bm~ 
ther with the sister." He goes on to say, that no 
magistrate ever could discover that they had ever been 
baptized, or in what way one in a hundred went out of 
the world. He accuses them as frequently guilty of 
robbery, and sometimes of murder : '* In years of 
plenty,*' says he, *' many thousands of them meet toge. 
ther in the mountains, where they feast and riot for 
many days } and at country weddings, markets, buriati, 
and other public occasions, they are to be seen, both men 
and women, perpetually dninx, cursing, blaspheming, 
and fighting together.*'* 'i'his high-minded statesman, 
of whom it is said by a contemporary ** that he would 
lose his life readily to save his country, and would not 
do a base thing to serve it,** thought the evil so great 
that he proposed as a remedy, the revival of domestio 
slavery, according to the practice of his adored republics 
in the classic ages ! A lH*tter remedy has been found* 
which in the sileut lapse of a century has proved effec- 
tual. The statute of 1G06, the noble legacy of the Scot- 
tish Parliament to their country, began soon after thb 
to operate ; and happily, as the minds of the poor re. 
ceived instruction, the Union opened new channels oi 
industry, and new fields of action to their view. 

At the present day there is perhaps no eountry In 
Europe, in which, in proportion to its population, so 
small a number of crimes tall under the chastisement of 
the criminal law, as Scotland. Vfe have the best autho- 
rity for asserting, that on an average (tf thirty years, 

• Political Works of Aodrtw Fletcher, octavo, Loadoa, 1787 
p. 1««. 



resident in his particular parish, becomes the 
natural patron and superintendant of the parish- 
school, and is enabled in various ways to 
promote the comfort of the teacher, and the 
proficiency of the scholars. The teacher 
himself is often a candidate for holy orders, 
who, during the long course of study and 
probation required in the Scottish church, 
renders the time which can be spared from his 
professional studies, useful to others as well as 
to himself, by assuming the respectable cLiar- 
acter of a schoolmaster. It is common for 
tlte established schools, even in the country 
parishes of Scotland, to enjoy the means of 
classical instruction ; and many of the farmers, 
and some even of the cottagers, submit to much 
privation, that they may obtain, for one of 
their sontt at least, the precarious advantage of 
a learned education. The difficulty to be 
surmounted arises indeed not from the expense 
of instructing their children, but from the 
charge of supporting them. In the country 
parish-schools, the English language, writing, 
and accounts are generally taught at the rate 

preceding- the year 1797, the executions in that division 
of the island did not amount to six annually; and one 
quarter.Ncssions for the t4>wn of Manchester only, has 
Kent, according^ to Mr Hume, more felons to the planta- 
tions, than all the judges of Scotland nt<ually du in the 
spare of a year.* It roiftht appear invidious to attempt 
a calculation of the many thousand individuals in Man. 
Chester and its vicinity who can neither read nor write. 
A minority of those who suflfer the pnuishment of 
death for their crimes in every part of England are, it 
Is believed, in this miserable state of ignorance. 

There is now a legal provision for parochial schools, 
or rather for a school in each of the different townships 
into which the country is divided, in several of the 
northern states of North America, They are, however, 
of recent origin there, excepting in New England, 
%vhere thf y were established in the last century, pro. 
bably about the same time as in Scotland, and by the 
same religious sect In the Protestant Cantons of 
Su itzerland, the peasantry have the advantage of similar 
schools, though established and endowed in a different 
manner. This is also the case in certain districts in 
England, particularly in the northern parts of York, 
shire and of Lancashire, and in the counties of West- 
moreland and Cumberland. 

A law, providing for the instruction of the poor, was 

Sassed by the parliament of Ireland ; but the fund was 
iverted from iu purpose, and the measure was entirely 
frustrated. Proh Pudorl 

The similarity of character between the Swiss and the 
Scotch, and between the Scotch and the people of New 
England, can scarcely be overlooked. That it arises iu 
a great measure from the similarity of their institutions 
for instruction, cannot be questioned, it is no doubt 
increased by physical causes. With a superior degree 
of instruction, each of these nations possesses a country 
that may be said to be i^terile, in the neighbourhood of 
countries comparatively rich. Hence emigrations and 
the other eflV cts on conduct and character which such 
circumstances naturally produce. Tliis subject is in a 
high degree curious. The points of dissimilarity t>e. 
tween these nations might be traced to their causes also, 
and the whole investigation would perhaps admit of an 
approach to certainty in our conclusions, to which snrh 
inquiries seldom lead. How much superior in morals, 
in intellect, and in Inppiness, the peasantry of those 
parts of England are who have opportuniUes of in&truc. 
tion, to the same class in other situations, tliose who 
inquire into the subject will speedily discover. The 
peasantry of Westmoreland, ana of the other districts 
mentioned above, if their physical and moral qualities 
be taken together, are, in the opinion of the Editor, 
superior to the peasantry of any part of the island. 

* Hume's CommentariM on the Laws of Scotland, Introduction, 

of six shillings, and Latin at the rate of ten or 
twelve shillings, per annum. In the town, tho 
prices are somewhat higher. 

It would be improper in this place to inquire 
minutely into the degree of instruction received 
at these seminaries, or to attempt any precise 
estimate of its effects, either on the individuals 
who are the subjects of this instruction, or on 
the community to which they belong. That 
it is on the whole favourable to industry and 
morals, though doubtless with some individual 
exceptions, seems to be proved by the most 
striking and decisive experience ; and it is 
equally clear, that it is the cause of that 
sj>irit of emigration and of adventure so pre- 
valent among the Scotch. Knowledge has, 
by Lord Verulam, been denominated power; 
by others it has, with less propriety, been 
denominated virtue or happiness : we may 
with confidence consider it as motion. A 
human being, in proportion as he is informed, 
has his wishes enlarged, as well as the means 
of gratifying those wishes. He may be con- 
sidered as taking within the sphere of his 
vision a larger portion of the globe on which 
vve tread, and spying advantage at a greater 
distance on its surface. His desires or ambi- 
tion, once excited, are stimulated by his imagi- 
nation ; and distant and uncertain objects, 
giving freer scope to the operation of this 
faculty, often acquire, in the mind of the 
youthful adventurer, an attraction from their 
very distance and uncertainty. If, therefore, 
a greater degree of instruction be given to the 
peasantry of a country comparativelv poor, in 
the neighbourhood of other countries rich in 
natural and acquired advantages ; and if the 
barriers be removed that kept them separate, 
emigration from the former to the latter will 
take place to a certain extent, by laws nearly 
as uniform as those by which heat diffuses 
itself among surrounding bodies, or water finds 
its level when left to its natural course. By 
the articles of the Union, the barrier was 
broken down which divided the two British 
nations, and knowledge and poverty poured the 
adventurous natives of the north over the fer- 
tile plains of £ngland, and more especially, 
over the colonies which she had settled in the 
East and in the West. The stream of popu- 
lation continues to fiow from the north to the 
south ; for the causes that originally impelled 
it, continue to operate ; and the richer country 
is constantly invigorated by the acces.sion of an 
informed and hardy race of men, educated in 
poverty, and prepared for hardship and danger, 
patient of labour, and prodigal of life. * 

« It has bepn supposed that Scotland is less populous 
and less improved on account of this emigration ; but 
such conclusions arc doubtful, if not wholly fallacious. 
The principle of population acts in no country to ths 
full extent of its power : marriage is every where re* 
tarded beyond the period poiut«>aout by nature, by the 
difficulty of supporting a family ; and this obstacle is 
greatest in loug-settled commuuitias. The emigration 
of a part of a people facilitates the marriage of the rest, 
by producing a relative increase in the means of suU 




The preachers of the Reformation in Scot- I 
land were disciples of Calvin, and brought 
with them the temper as well as the tenets of 
that celebrated heresiarch. The presbyterian 
form of worship and of church government 
was endeared to the people, from its being 
establishel by themselves. It was endeared 
to them, also, by the struggle it had to maintain 
with the Catholic and the Protestant episcopal 
churches, over both of which, after a hundred 
years of fierce, and sometimes bloody conten- 
tion, it finally triumphed, receiving the coun- 
tenance of government, and the sanction of 
.aw. During this long period of contention 
and of suffering, the temper of the people be- 
came more and more obstinate and bigotted ; 
and the nation received that deep tinge of 
fanaticism, which coloured their public tran- 
sactions as well as their private virtues, and of 
which evident traces may be found in our own 
times. When the public schools were esta- 
blished, the instruction communicated in them 
partook of the religious character of the people. 
The Catechism of the Westminster Divines 
was the universal school-book, and was put 
into the hands of the young peasant as soon as 
he had acquired a knowledge of his alphabet ; 
and his first exercises in the art of reading in- 
troduced him to the most mysterious doctrines 
of the Christian faith. This practice is con- 
tinued in our own times. After the Assem- 
bly's Catechism, the Proverbs of Solomon, 
and the New and Old Testament, follow in 
regular succession ; and the scholar departs, 
gifted with the knowledge of the sacred writ- 
ings, and receiving their doctrines according to 
the interpretation of the Westminster Confes- 
sion of Faith. Thus with the instruction of 
infancy in the schools of Scotland, are blended 
the dogmas of the national church ; and hence 
the first and most constant exercise of ingenuity 
among the peasantry of Scotland, is displayed 

eistence. The arguments of Adam Sinith, for a fre« 
export of com, are perhaps applicable with less excep. 
tion t*t the free export of people. The more certain the 
vent, the greater the cultivation of the soil This sub- 
ject has been well investigated by Sir James Stewart, 
whose principles have been expanded and farther illus. 
trated in a late truly philosophical Essay on Population. 
In fact, Scotland has increased in tlie number of its in. 
habitants in the last forty years, as the Statistics of Sir 
John Sinclair clearly prove, but not in the ratio that 
some had supposed, rhe extent of the emigration of 
the Scots may be calculated with some degree of confi. 
dence from the proportionate number of tiie two sexes 
in Scotland ; a point that may be established pretty ex- 
actly by an examinatinu of the invaluable Statistics 
already mentioned. If we suppose that there is an 
equal number of male and female natives of Scotland, 
alive sometchere or other, the excess by which the fe- 
males exceed the males in their own country, may be 
considered to be equal to the number of Scotchmen liv- 
ing out of Scotlstnd. But though the males born in 
Scotland be admitted to be as 13 to 12, and though some 
of the females emigrate as well iw the males, this mode 
of calculating would probably make the number of ex- 
patriated Scotchmen, at any one time alive, greater 
than the truth. The unhealthy climates into wliich 
they emigrate, the hazardous services in which so many 
of them engage, render the mean life of tliose who leave 
Scotland (to speak in the language of calculators) not 
perhaps of half the value of the mean life o^ thow who 

in religious disputation. With a strong at- 
tachment to the national creed, is conjoined » 
bigotted preference of certain forms of worship ; 
the source of which would be often altogether 
obscure, if we did not recollect that the cere- 
monies of the Scottish Church were framed 
in direct opposition, in every point, to those of 
the Church of Rome. 

The eccentricities of conduct, and singida- 
rities of opinion and manners, which charac- 
terized the English sectaries in the last century, 
afforded a subject for the muse of Butler, 
whose pictures lose their interest, since their 
archet3rpes are lost. Some of the peculiarities 
common among the more rigid disciples of 
Calvinism in Scotland, in the present times, 
have given scope to the ridicule of Bums, 
whose humour is equal to Butler's, and whose 
drawings from living manners are singularly 
expressive and exact. Unfortunately the cor- 
rectness of his taste did not always correspond 
with the strength of his genius ; and hence 
some of the most exquisite of his comic pro- 
ductions are rendered unfit for the light * 

The information and the religious education 
of the peasantry of Scotland, promote sedate, 
ness of conduct, and habits of thought and 
reflection. — These good qualities are not 
counteracted bv the establishment of poor 
laws, which, while they reflect credit on the 
benevolence, detract from the wisdom of the 
English legislature. To make a legal provi- 
sion for the inevitable distress of the poor, who 
by age or disease are rendered incapable of 
labour, may indeed seem an indispensable duty 
of society ; and if, in the execution of a plan 
for this purpose, a distinction could be intro- 
duced, so as to exclude from its benefits those 
whose sufferings are produced by idleness or 
profligacy, such an institution would perhaps 
be as rational as humane. But to lay a general 
tax on property for the support of poverty, 
from whatever cause proceeding, is a measure 
full of danger. It must operate in a consider* 
able degree as a bounty on idleness, and a duty 
on industry. It takes away from vice and 
indolence the prospect of their most dreaded 
consequences, and from , virtue and industry 
their peculiar sanctions. In many cases it 
must render the rise in the price of labour, not 
a blessing, but a curse to the labourer ; who, 
if there be an excess in what he earns beyond 
his immediate necessities, may be expected to 
devote this excess to his present gratification ; 
trusting to the provision made by law for his 
own and his family's support, should disease 
suspend, or death terminate his labours. Hap. 
pily in Scotland, the same legislature which 
established a system of instruction for the 
poor, resisted the introduction of a legal provi- 
sion for the support of poverty ; what they 
granted on the one hand, and what they re- 

♦ Holy Willie's Prayer, Rob the Rymer's Welcome 
to his Bastard Child, Epistle to J. Gowdie, the Holy 

Tulzie, &c 



fused on the other, was equally favourable to 
industry and good morals ; and hence it will 
not appear surprising, if the Scottish peasantry 
have a more than usual share of prudence and 
reflection, if they approach nearer than persons 
of their order usually do, to the definition of a 
man, that of " a being that looks before and 
after." These observations must indeed be 
taken with many exceptions : the favourable 
operation of the causes just mentioned is coun. 
teracted by others of an opposite tendency ; 
and the subject, if fully examined, would lead 
to discussions of great extent. 

When the reformation was established in 
Scotland, instrumental music was banished 
from the churches, as savouring too much of 
" profane minstrelsy/* Instead of being regu- 
lated by an instrument, the voices of the con- 
gregation are led and directed by a person 
under the name of a precentor; and the people 
are all expected to join in the tune which he 
chooses for the psalm which is to be sung. is therefore a part of the educa- 
tion of the peasantry of Scotland, in which 
they are usually instructed in the long winter 
nights by the parish schoolmaster, who is 
generally the precentor, or by itinerant teachers 
more celebrated for their powers of voice. 
This branch of education had, in the last reign, 
fallen into some neglect, but was revived about 
thirty or forty years ago, when the music itself 
was reformed and improved. The Scottish 
system of psalmody is however radically bad. 
Destitute of taste or harmony, it forms a 
striking contrast with the delicacy and pathos 
of the profane airs. Our poet, it will be 
found, was taught church-music, in which, 
however, he made little proficiency. 

That dancing should also be very generally 
a part of the education of the Scottish pea- 
santry, will surprise those who have only seen 
this description of men ; and still more those 
who reflect on the rigid spirit of Calvinism 
with which the nation is so deeply affected, 
and to which this recreation is so strongly ab- 
horrent. The winter is also the season when 
they acquire dancing, and indeed almost all 
their other instruction. They are taught to 
dance by persons generally of their own number, 
many of whom work at daily labour during 
the summer months. The school is usually a 
bam, and the arena for the performers is gen- 
erally a clay floor. The dome is lighted by 
candles stuck in one end of a cloven stick, the 
other end of vvhich is thrust into the wall. 
Reels, strathspeys, country-dances, and horn- 
pipes, are here practised. The jig, so much 
in favour among the English peasantry, has 
no place among them. The attachment of the 
people of Scotland, of every rank, and parti- 
cularly of the peasantry, to this amusement, 
is very great. After the labours of the day 
are over, young men and women walk many 
miles, in the cold and dreary night of winter, 
to these country dancing-schools ; and the in- 
tant that the violin sounds a Scottish air, 

fatigue seems to vanish, the toil-bent rustic 
becomes erect, his features brighten with sym- 
pathy ; every nerve seems to thrill with sen- 
sation, and every artery to vibrate with life. 
These rustic pertbrmers are indeed less to be 
admired for grace, than for agility and anima- 
tion, and their accurate observance of time. 
Their modes of dancing, as well as their tunes, 
are common to ever)* rank in Scotland, and 
are now generally known. In our own day 
they have penetrated into England, and have 
established themselves even in the circle of 
Royaltjr. In another generation they will be 
naturalized in every part of the island. 

The prevalence of this taste, or rather pas- 
sion for dancing, among a people so deeply 
tinctured with the spirit and doctrines of 
Calvin, is one of those contradictions which 
the philosophic observer so often finds in 
national character and manners. It is proba- 
bly to be ascribed to the Scottish music, vvhich, 
throughout all its varieties, is so full of sensi- 
bility, and which, in its livelier strains, awakes 
those vivid emotions that find in dancing their 
natural solace and relief. 

This triumph of the music of Scotland over 
the spirit of the established religion, has not, 
however, been obtained without long continued 
and obstinate struggles. The numerous sec- 
taries who dissent from the establishment on 
account of the relaxation which they perceive, 
or think they perceive, in the Church, from 
original doctrines and discipline, universally 
condemn the practice of dancing, and the 
schools where it is taught : and the more 
elderly and serious part of the people, of every 
persuasion, tolerate rather than approve these 
meetings of the young of both sexes, where 
dancing is practised to their spirit-stirring 
music, where care is dispelled, toil is forgot- 
ten, and prudence itself is sometimes lulled to 

The Reformation, which proved fatal to the 
rise of the other fine arts in Scotland, proba- 
bly impeded, but could not obstruct, the pro- 
gress of its music; a circumstance that will 
convince the impartial inquirer, that this music 
not only existed previous to that era, but had 
taken a firm hold of the nation ; thus aflTord- 
ing B proof of its antiquity, stronger than any 
produced by the researc||es of our antiquaries. 

The impression which the Scottish music 
has made on the people, is deepened by its 
union with the national songs, of which 
various collections of unequal merit are before 
the public. These songs, like those of other 
nations, are many of them humorous, but they 
chiefly treat of love, war, and drinking. Love 
is the subject of the greater proportion. With- 
out displaying the higher powers of the ima- 
gination, they exhibit a perfect knowledge of 
the human heart, and breathe a spirit of affec- 
tion, and sometimes of delicate and romantic 
tenderness, not to be surpassed in modern 
poetry, and which the more polished strains 
of antiquity have seldom possessed. 



The origin of this amatory character in the 
rustic muse of Scotland, or of the greater 
number of those love- songs themselves, it j 
would be difficult to trace ; they have accumu- ; 
lated in the silent lapse of time, and it is now 
perhaps impossible to give an arrangement of 
them in the order of their date, valuable as 
such a record of taste and manners would be. 
Their present influence on the character of 
the nation is, however, great and striking. 
To them we must attribute, in a great measure, | 
the romantic passion which so often character. | 
izes the attachments of the humblest of the , 
people of Scotland, to a degree, that if we 
mistake not, is seldom found in the same rank 
of society in other countries. The pictures 
of love and happiness exhibited in their rural 
songs, are early impressed on the mind of the 
peasant, and are rendered more attractive from 
the music with which they are united. They 
associate themselves with his own youth- 
ful emotions ; they elevate the object as 
well as the nature of his attachment; and 
give to the impressions of sense the bNeauti- 
ful colours of imagination. Hence in the 
course of his passion, a Scottish peasant often 
exerts a spirit of adventure, of which a 
Spanish cavalier need not be ashamed. 
After the labours of the day are over, he sets 
out for the habitation of his mistress, perhaps 
at many miles distance, regardless of the length 
or the dreariness of the way. He approaches 
her in secrecy, under the disguise of night. A 
signal at the door or window, perhaps agreed 
on, and understood by none but her, gives in- 
formation of his arrival ; and sometimes it is 
repeated again and again, before the capricious 
fair one will obey the summons. But if she 
favours his addresses, she escapes unobserved, 
and receives the vows of her lover under the 
gloom of twilight, or the deeper shade of night. 
Interviews of this kind are the subjects of many 
of the Scottish songs, some of the most beauti- 
ful of which Bums has imitated or improved. 
In the art which they celebrate he was per- 
fectly skilled ; he knew and had practised all 
its mysteries. Intercourse of this sort is in- 
deed universal, even in the humblest condition 
of man, in every region of the earth. But it 
is not unnatural to suppose, that it may exist 
in a greater degree, '^and in a more romantic 
form, among the peasantry of a country v\ ho 
are supposed to be more than commonly in- 
structed ; who find in their rural songs expres- 
sions for their youthful emotions ; and in whom 
the embers of passion are continually fanned 
by the breathings of a music full of tenderness 
and sensibility. The direct influence of physical 
causes on the attachment between the sexes is 
comparatively small, but it is modified by moral 
causes beyond any other affection of the mind 
Of these, music and poetry are the chief. 
Among the snows of Lapland, and under the 
burning sun of Angola, the savage is seen 
hastening to his mistress, and every where he 

beguiles the weariness of his journey with poetry 
and song.* 

In appreciating the happiness and virtue of 
a community, there is perhaps no single cri' 
terion on which so much dependence may be 
placed, as the state of the intercourse between 
the sexes. Where this displays ardour of at. 
tachment, accompanied by purity of conduct, 
the character and the influence of women rise 
in society, our imperfect nature mounts on the 
scale of moral excellence, and frotn^.tiie source 
of this single affection, a stream l>i felicity de- 
scends, which branches into ft thousand rivulets 
that enrich and adorn the field of life. Where 
the attachment between thie sexes sinks into 
an appetite, the heritage of our species is com- 
paratively poor, and man approaches the con> 
dition ot the brutes that perish. " If we could 
with safety indulge the pleasing supposition 
that Fingal lived and that Ossian sung,f** 
Scotland, judging from this criterion, might be 
considered as ranking high in happiness and 
virtue in very remote ages. To appreciate 
her situation by the same criterion in our own 
times, would be a delicate tod difficult under- 
taking. After considering the probable influ- 
ence of her popular songs and her national 
music, and examining how far the effects to be 
expected from these are supported by facts, 
the inquirer would also have to examine the 
influence of other causes, and particula riy of 
her civil and ecclesiastical institutions, by 
which the character, and even the manners of 
a people, though silently and slowly, are 
often powerfully controlled. In the point ot 
view in which we are considering the subject, 
the ecclesiastical establishments of Scotland 
may be supposed peculiarly favourable to purity 
of conduct The dissoluteness of manners among 
the Catholic clergy, which preceded, and in 
some measure prc^uced the ileformation, l.ed 
to an extraordinary strictness on the part of 
the reformers, and especially in that particular 
in which the licentiousness of the clergy had 
been carrie<l to its greatest height— the inter, 
course between the sexes. On this point, as 
on all others connected with austerity of man. 
ners, the disciples of Calvin assumed a greater 
severity than those of the Protestant episco- 
pal church. The punishment of illicit con. 
nexion between the sexes was, throughout all 
Europe, a province which the clergy assumed 
to themselves *, and the church of Scotland, 
which at the Reformation renounced so mat y 
powers and privileges, at that period took this 
crime under her more especial jurisdiction. \ — 

* The North. Ameriran Indians, among whom the 
attachment bet^veeii the sexes is said to be weak, and 
love, in the purer Rense of the word, unknown, seem 
nearly unacquainted with the charms of poetry and 
music. See JVeld*i Tour, 

f Gibhoa 

X In the punishment of this offence the Church era. 

ployed formerly the arm of the dril power. Daring the 

reign of James the Vlth (James the First of England), 

i criminal connexion t>etween unmarried persons was 



Where pregnancy takes place without marriage, 
theconditroD of the female causes the discovery, 
and it is on her, therefore, in the first instance, 
that the dergv and elders of the church exer- 
cise their zeal. After examination before the 
Idrk-session touching the circumstances of her 
guilt, she must endure a public penance, and 
sustain a public rebuke from the pulpit, for 
three Sabbaths successively, in the race of the 
congregation to which she belongs, and thus 
have her weakness exposed, and her shame 
blazoned. The sentence is the same with re- 
spect to the male ; but how much lighter the 
punishment! It is well known that this 
dreadful law, worthy of the iron minds of 
Calvin and of Knox, has often led to conse- 
quences, at the very mention of which human 
nature recoils. 

While the punishment of incontinence pre- 
scribed by the institutions of Scotland, is severe, 
theculpnts have an obvious method of avoiding 
it, afforded them by the law respecting marriage, 
the validity of which requires neither the cere- 
monies of the church, nor any other ceremonies, 
but simplythe deliberate acknowledgmentof each 
other as husband and wife, made by the parties 
before witnesses, or in any other way that gives 
legal evidence of such an acknowledgment having 
taken placb. And as the parties themselves fix 
the date of their marriage, an opportunity is 
thus given to avoid the punishment, and repair 
the consequences of illicit gratification. Such 
a degree of laxity respecting so serious a con- 
tract might produce much confusion in the 
descent of property, without a still farther in- 
dulgence ; but the law of Scotland legitimating 
all children bom before wedlock, on the sub- 
sequent marriage of their parents, renders the 
actual date of the marriage itself of little con- 
sequence.* Marriages contracted in Scotland 

made the subject of a partiralar statute ( See Hunters 
Commentaries on the Laws of Scotland, Vol. ii. p. 332.) 
which, from its riRoar, was never much enforced, and 
which has lonfr fallen into disuse. When in the middle 
of the last century, the Puritans succtreded in the over- 
throw of the monarchy in both divisions of the island, 
fornication was a crime against which they directed 
their utmost zeal. It was mnde punishable with death 
ill the second instance, (See BlackstonCt h. iv. chap. 4. 
No. II.) Happily this sanguinary statute was swept 
away along with the other acts of the Commonwealth, 
on the restoration of Charles II. to whose temper and 
manners it must have been peculiarly abhorrent And 
after the Revolution, when several salutary acts passed 
during the suspension of the monarchy, were re-enact- 
ed by the Scottish Parliament, particularly that for the 
establishment of parish schools, the statute punishing 
fornication with death^ was suffered to sleep in the 
grave of the stem fanatics who had given it birth. 

* The legitimation of children, by subsequent mar. 
riage became the Roman law under the Christian em. 
perors. It was the canon law of modem Europe, and 
lias been established in S(*otlaiid from a very remote 
period. Thus a child born a baf tard, if his parents af- 
terwards marry, ei^oys all the privileges of seniority 
over his brothers afterwards born in wedlock. In the 
Parliament of Merton, in the reign of Henry III. the 
English clergy made a vigorous attempt to introduce 
this article into the law of JEIug^and, and it was on this 
occasion that the Barons made the noted answer, since 
so often appealed to ; (liu>d nolunt leges Angliee mutare i 
ffiMt hue usque usitata sunt approbate. With regard 

without the ceremonies of the church arc con- 
sidered as irregidar, and the parties usually 
submit to a rtiuke for their conduct, in the 
face of their respective congregations, which 
is not, however, necessary to render the mw- 
riage valid. Bums, whose marriage it will 
appear, was irregular, does not seem to ha ve 
undergone this part of the disciplme of the 

church. . . r o *i J 

Thus, though the institutions of Scotland 
are in many particulars favourable to a conduct 
among the peasantry founded on foresight and 
reflection, on the subject of marriage the re- 
verse of this is true. Irregular marriages, it 
may be naturally supposed, are often improvi- 
dent ones, in whatever rank of society they 
occur. The children of such marriages, poor- 
ly endowed by their parents, find a certain 
degree of instruction of easy acquisition ; but 
the comforts of life, and the gratifications of 
ambition, they find of more difficult attain- 
ment in their native soil ; and thus the mar- 
riage laws of Scotland conspire with other cir, 
cumstances, to produce that habit of emigration, 
and spirit of adventure, for which the people 
are so remarkable. 

The manners and appearance of the Scot- 
tish peasantry do not bespeak to a stranger 
the degree of their cultivation. In their owti 
country, their industry is inferior to that of 
the same description of men in the southern 
division of the island. Industry and the use. 
ful arts reached Scotland later than England ; 
and though their advance has been rapid there, 
the effects produced are as yet far. inferior, 
both in reality and in appearance. The Scot- 
tish farmers have in general neither the opu- 
lence nor the comforts of those of England— 
neither vest the same capital in the soil, nor 
receive from it the same return. Their cloth- 
ing, their food, and their habitations, are al- 
most every where inferiorf . Their appear- 
ance in these respects corresponds with the 
appearance of their country; and under the 
operation of patient industry, both are impro- 
ving. Industry and the useful arts came later 
into Scotland than into England, because the 
security of property came later. With causes 
of internal agitation and warfare similar to 
those which occurred to the more southern 
nation, the people of Scotland were exposed 
to more imminent hazards, and more extensive 
and destructive spoliation, from external war. 
Occupied in the maintenance of their indepen- 
dence against their more powerful neighbours, 
to this Were necessarily sacrificed the arts of 
peace, and at certain periods, the flower of 
their population. And when the union of the 

to what constitutes a marriage, the law of Scotland, sn 
explained above, differs from the Roman law, which 
required the ceremony to be performed in facie ecctexice. 
f These remarks are confined to the class of farmers : 
the same corresponding inferiority will not be found 
in the condition of the cottagers and labourers, at 
least in the article of food, as those who examine this 
subject impartially will soon discover. 



crowns produced a security from national wars 
with England for the century succeeding, the 
civil wars common to both divisions of the 
island, and the dependence, perhaps the neces> 
sary dependence of the Scottish councils on 
those of the more powerful kingdom, coun- 
teracted this advantage. Even the union of 
the British nations was not, from obvious 
causes, immediately followed by all the bene- 
fits which it was ultimately destined to pro- 
duce. At length, however, these benefits are 
distinctly felt, and generally acknowledged. 
Property is secure ; manufactures and com- 
merce increasing, and agriculture is rapidly 
improving in Scotland. As yet, indeed, the 
farmers are not, in genera), enabled to make 
improvements out of their own capitals, as in 
England ; but the landholders, who have seen 
and felt the advantages resulting from them, 
contribute towards them with a liberal hand. 
Hence property, as well as population, is ac- 
cumulating rapidly on the Scottish soil} an<I 
the nation, enjoyino: a great part of the bles- 
sings of Englishmen, and retaining several of 
their own happy institutions, might be consi- 
dered, if confidence could be placed in human 
foresight, to be as yet only in an early stage of 
their progress. Yet there are obstructions in 
their way. To the cultivation of the soil are 
opposed the extent and the strictness of the 
entails : to the improvement of the people, the 
rapidly i^icreasing use of spirituous liquors, a 
detestable practice, which includes in its con- 
sequences almost every evil, physical and 
moral.* The peculiarly social disposition of 
the Scottish peasantry exposes them to this 
practice. This disposition, which is fostered 
by their national songs and music, is perhaps 
characteristic of the nation at large. Though 
the source of many pleasures, it counteracts 
by its consequences the effects of their pa- 
tience, industry, and frugality both at home 
and abroad, of which those especially who 
have witnessed the progress of Scotsmen in 
other countries, must have known many strik- 
ing instances. 

Since the Union, the manners and language 
of the people of Scotland have no longer a 
standard among themselves, but are tried by 
the standard of the nation to which they are 
united. — Though their habits are far from being 
flexible, yet it is evident that their manners 
and dialect are undergoing a rapid change. 
Even the farmers of the present day appear 
to have less of the peculiarities of their coun- 
try in their speech, than the men of letters of 
the last generation. Bums, who never left 
the island, nor penetrated farther into Eng- 
land than Carlisle on the one hand, or New- 

* The amount of the duty on spirits distilled in Scot, 
land in now upwards of I..!?50,000 annually. lu ITH, 
it did not reach X.SOOO. The rate of the duty has 
indeed been raised, but, making every allowance, the 
increase of consumption must be enormous. This is 
independent of the duty on malt, 8cc. malt liquor, ira. 
ported spirits, and wine. 

castle on the other, had less of the Scottish 
dialect than Hume, who lived for many years 
in the best society of England and France ; or 
perhaps than Robertson, who wrote the En- 
lish language in a style of such purity ; and if 
he had been in other respects fitted to take a 
lead in the British House of Commons, his 
pronunciation would neither have fettered bis 
eloquence, nor deprived it of its due efiTect 

A striking particular in the character of the 
Scottish peasantry, is one which it is hoped 
will not be lost— the strength of their domestic 
attachments. The privations to which many 
parents submit for the good of their children, 
and particularly to obtain for them instruction, 
which they consider as the chief good, has 
already been noticed. If their children live 
and prosper, they have their certain reward, 
not merely as witnessing, but as sharing of 
their prosperity. Even in the humblest ranks 
of the peasantry, the earnings of the children 
may generally be considered as at the disposal 
of their parents ; perhaps in no country is so 
large a portion of the wages of labour applied 
to the support and comfort of those whose 
days of labour are past. A similar strength 
of attachment extends through all the domestic 

Our poet partook largely of this amiable 
characteristic of his humble compeers ; he 
was also strongly tinctured with another strik- 
ing feature which belongs to them, — a partia- 
lity for his native country, of which man^ 
proofs may be found in his writings. This, it 
must be confessed, is a very strong and general 
sentiment among the natives of Scotland, dif- 
fering however in its character, according to 
the character of the different minds in which 
it is found ; in some appearing a selfish preju- 
dice, in others a generous affection. . 

An attachment to the land of their birth is, 
indeed, common to all men. It is found 
among the inhabitants of every region of the 
earth, from the arctic to the antarctic circle, 
in all the vast variety of climate, of surface, of 
civilization. To analyze this general senti- 
ment, to trace it through the mazes of associa- 
tion up to the primary affection in which it 
has its source, would neither be a difficult nor 
unpleasing labour. On the first consideration 
of the subject, we should perhaps expect to 
find this attachment strong in proportion to 
the physical advantage of the soil ; but inquiry, 
far from confirming this supposition, seems 
rather to lead to an opposite conclusion. — In 
those fertile regions where beneficent nature 
yields almost spontaneously whatever is neces- 
sary to human wants, patriotism, as well as 
every other generous sentiment, seems weak 
and languid. In countries less richly endowed, 
where the comforts, and even necessaries of 
life, must be purchased by patient toil, the 
affections of the mind, as the faculties of the 
understanding, improve under exertion, and 
patriotism flourishes amidst its kindred virtues. 
Where it is necessary to combine for mutual 



d«fence, as well as for the supply of common 
wants, mutual good-will springs from mutual 
difl^culties and labours, the social affections 
unfold themselves, and extend from the men 
with whom we live, to the soil in which we 
tread. It will perhaps be found, indeed, that 
our affections cannot be originally called forth, 
but by objects capable, or supposed capable, 
of feeling our sentiments, and of returning 
them ; but when once excited they are strength- 
ened by exeroise^they are expanded by the 
powers of imagination, and seize more espe> 
cially on those inanimate parts of creation, 
which form the theatre on which we have first 
felt the alternations of joy and sorrow, and 
first tasted the sweets of sympathy and regard. 
If this reasoning be just, the love of our 
country, although modified, and even extin- 
guished in individuals by the chances and 
changes of life, may be presumed, in our 
general reasonings, to be strong among a peo- 
ple, in proportion to their social, and more 
especially to their domestic affections. In free 
governments it is found more active than in 
despotic ones, because, as the individual be- 
comes of more consequence in the community, 
the community becomes of more consequence 
to him ; in small states it is generally more 
active than in large ones, for the same reason, 
and also because the independence of a small 
community being maintained with difficulty, 
and frequently endangered, sentiments of 
patriotism are more frequently excited. In 
mountainous countries it is generally found 
more active than in plains, because there the 
necessities of life often require a closer union 
of the inhabitants ; and more especially because 
in such countries, though less populous than 
plains, the inhabitants, instead of being scat- 
tered equally over the whole, are usually 
divided into small communities on the sides 
of their separate valleys, and on the banks of 
their respective streams : situations well cal- 
culated to call forth and to concentrate the 
social affections amidst scenery that acts most 
powerfully on the sight, and makes a lasting 
impression on the memory. It may also be 
remarked, that mountainous countries are often 
peculiarly calculated to nourish sentiments of 
national pride and independence, from the in- 
fluence of history on the affections of the mind. 
In such countries, from their natural strength, 

inferior nations have maintained their indepen- 
dence against their more powerful neighbours, 
and valour, in all ages, has made its most suc- 
cessful effort against oppression. Such coun- 
tries present the fields of battle, where the 
tide of invasion was rolled back, and where 
the ashes of those rest, who have died in de- 
fence of their nation .' 

The operation of the various causes we have 
mentioned is doubtless more general and more 
permanent, where the scenery of a country, 
the peculiar manners of its inhabitants, and 
the martial achievements of their ancestor 
are embodied in national songs, and united to 
national music. By this combination, the ties 
that attach men to the land of their birth are 
multiplied and strengthened; and the images of 
infancy strongly a8.<tociating with the generous 
affections, resist the influence of time, and of 
new impressions; they often survive in corn- 
tries far distant, and amidst far dififereit 
scenes, to the latest periods of life, to sooth 
the heart with the pleasures of memory, when 
those of hope die away. 

If this reasoning be just, it will explain to 
us why, among the natives of Scotland, even 
of cultivated minds, we so generally find a 
partial attachment to the land of their birth, 
and why this is so strongly discoverable in the 
writings of Bums, who joined to the higher 
powers of the understanding the most ardent 
affections. Let not men of reflection think it 
a superfluous labour to trace the rise and pro- 
gress of a character like his. Bom in the con- 
dition of a peasant, he rose by the force of his 
mind into distinction and influence, and in his 
works has exhibited what are so rarely found, 
the charms of original genius. With a deep 
insight into the human heart, his poetry ex- 
hibits high powers of imagination^t displays, 
and as it were embalms, the peculiar manners 
of his country ; and it may be considered as a 
monument, not to bis o\%'n name only, but to 
the expiring genius of an ancient and once in- 
dependent nation. In relating the incidents 
of his life, candour will prevent us from 
dwelling invidiously on those faults and failings 
which justice forbids us to conceal ; we will 
tread lightly over his yet warm ashes, and re- 
spect the laurels that shelter his untimely 




Robert Burns was, as is well known, the son 
of a farmer in Ayrshire, and afterwards him- 
self a farmer there ; but, ha\nng been unsuc- 
cessful, he was about to emigrate to Jamaica. 
He had previously, however, attracted some 
notice by his poetical talents in the vicinity 
where he lived ; and having published a small 
volume of his poems at Kilmarnock, this drew 
upon him more general attention. In conse- 
quence of the encouragement he received, he 
repaired to Edinburgh, and there published, 
by subscription, an improved and enlarged 
edition of his poems, which met with extra- 
ordinary success. By the profits arising from 
the sale of this edition, he was enabled to 
enter on a farm in Dumfries-shire ; and having 
married a person to whom he had been long 
attached, he retired to devote the remainder of 
his life to agriculture. He was again, how- 
ever, unsuccessful ; and, abandoning his farm, 
he removed into the town of Dumfries, where 
he filled an inferior office in ^e excise, and 
where he terminated his life in July, 1796, in 
his thirty-eighth year. 

The strength and originality of his genius 
procured him the notice of many persons dis- 
tinguished in the republic of letters, and, 
among others, that of Dr Moore, well known 
for his Views of Society and Manners on the \ 
Continent of Europe, for his Zehtco, and vari- 
ous other works. To this gentleman our 
poet addressed a letter, after his first visit to 
Edinburgh, giving a history of his life, up to 
the period of his writing. In a composition 
never intended to see the light, elegance or 
perfect correctness of composition will not be 
expected. These, however, will be compen- 
sated by the opportunity of seeing our poet, as 
he gives the incidents of his life, unfold the 

fieculiarities of his character with all the care- 
ess vigour and open sincerity of his mind. 

** SIR, Mauckline, 2d August, 1787. 

** F'oR some months past I have been rambling 
over the country ; but I am now confined with 

some lingering complaints, originating, as I 
take it, in the stomach. To divert my spirits 
a little in this miserable fog of ennui, I have 
taken a whim to give you a history of myself. 
My name has made some little noise in this 
country ; you have done me the honour to in- 
terest yourself very warmly in my behalf ; and 
I think a faithful account of what character of 
a man I am, and how I came by that charac- 
ter, may perhaps amuse you in an idle moment, 
I will give you an honest narrative ; though I 
know it will be often at my own expense ; — 
for I assure you, sir, I have, like Solomon, 
whose character, except in the trifling affair 
of uHsdom, I sometimes think I resemble, — 
I have, I sav, like him, turned my eyes to behold 
madness andfoUy, and like him, too, frequently 
shakeniiands with their intoxicating friendship. 
. . . After you have perused these pages, 
should you think them trifling and impertinent, 
I only beg leave to tell you, that the poor 
author wrote them under some twitching 
qualms of conscience, arising from a suspicion 
that he was doing what be ought not to do ; a 
predicament he has more than once been in 

" I have not the most distant pretensions to 
assume that character which the pye-coated 
guardians of escutcheons call a GenUeman. 
When at Edinburgh last winter, I got ac- 
quainted in the Herald's Office ; and, looking 
through that granary of honours, I there found 
almost every name in the kingdom; but for 


"My ancient but ignoble blood 

Has crept through scoundrels ever since 


Gules, purpure, argent, &c. quite disowned 

" My father was of the north of Scotiand, 
the son of a farmar, and was thrown by early 
misfortunes on the world at large; where, 
after many years wanderings and sojoumings, 
he picked up a pretty large quantity of obser- 



vation and experience, to which I am indebt- 
ed for most of my little pretensions to wisdom. 
—I have met with few who understood 
Tnerif their manners, and their ways, equal to 
him ; but stubborn, ungainly integrity, and 
headlong, ungovernable irascibility, are dis- 
qualifying circumstances ; consequently I was 
born a very poor man's ton. For the first six 
or seven years of my life, my father was a 
gardener to a worthy gentleman of small estate 
in the neighbourhood of Ayr. Had he con- 
tinued in that station, I must have marched 
off to be one of the little underlings about a 
farm-house ; but it was his dearest wish and 
prayer to have it in his power to keep his 
children under his own eye till they could dis- 
cern between good and evil ; so, with the as- 
sistance of his generous master, my father 
ventured on a small farm on his estate. At 
those years I was by no means a favourite with 
any body. I was a good deal noted for a re- 
tentive memory, a stubborn sturdy something 
in my disposition, and an enthusiastic idiot 
piety. I say idiot piety, because I was then 
but a child. Though it cost the schoolmaster 
some thrashings, I made an excellent English 
scholar } and by the time I was ten or eleven 
years of age, I was a critic in substantives, 
verbs, and participles. In my infant and 
boyish days, too, I owed much to an old 
woman who resided in the family, remarkable 
for her ignorance, credulity, and superstition. 
She had, I suppose, the largest collection in 
the country ot tales and sungs concerning 
devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, war- 
locks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candlcs, dead- 
lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, 
enchanted towers, dragons, and other trum- 
pery. This cultivated the latent seeds of 
poetry ; but had so strong an effect on my 
imagination, that to this hour, in my nocturnal 
rambles, I sometimes keep a sharp look.out 
in suspicious places ; and though no body can 
be more sceptical than I am in such matters, 
yet it often takes an effort of philosophy to 
shake off these idle terrors. The earliest 
composition that I recollect taking pleasure in, 
was The Vision of Mirza, and a hymn of 
Addison's, beginning, How are thy servants 
blest, O Lord t I particularly remember one 
half-stanza which was music to my boyish 
ears — 

** For though on dreadful whirls we hong 
High ou the brolcen wave — " 

I met with these pieces in Mason*s English 
Collection, one of my school-books. The two 
first books I ever read in private, and which 
gave me more pleasure than any two books I 
ever read since, were, The Ltfe of Hannibal, 
and The History of Sir WiBiam WaUace. 
Hannibal gave my yoimg ideas such a turn, 
(hat I used to strut in raptures up and down 
after the ' recruiting drum and bag.pipe, and 
wish myself tall enough to be a soldier : while 

the stor^ of WaUace poured a Scottbh pre- 
judice into my veins, which will boil along 
there till the flood-gates of life shut in eternal 

*' Polemical divinity about this time was 
putting the country half-mad ; and I, ambitious 
of shining in conversation parties on Sundays, 
between sermons, at funerals, &c. used, a few 
years afterwards, to puzzle Calvinism with so 
much heat and indiscretion, that I raised a 
hue and cry of heresy against me, which has 
not ceased to this hour. 

** My vicinity to Ayr was of some advan- 
tage to me. My social disposition, when 
not checked bv some modifications of spirited 
pride, was, like our catechism-definition of 
infinitude, without bounds or limits. 1 formed 
several connections with other younkers who 
possessed superior advantages, the youngling 
actors, who were busy in the rehearsal of parts 
in which they were shortly to appear on the 
stage of life, where, alas ! I was destined to 
drudge behind the scenes. It is not commonly 
at this green age that our young gentry have 
a just sense of the immense distance between 
them and their ragged play fellows. It takes 
a few dashes into the world, to give the young 
great man that proper, decent, unnoticing dis- 
regard for the poor, insignificant, stupid devils, 
the mechanics and peasantry around him, who 
were perhaps bom in the same village. My 
young superiors never insulted the chutcrly 
appearance of my plough-boy carcase, the two 
extremes of which were often exposed to all 
the inclemencies of the seasons. They would 
give me stray volumes of books : among them, 
even then, I could pick up some observations \ 
and one, whose heart I am sure not even the 
Munny Begum scenes have tainted, helped me 
to a little French. Parting with these my 
young friends and benefisictors, as they occa- 
sional! v. went off for the East or West Indies, 
was often to me a sore affliction ; but I was 
soon called to Riore serious evils. My father's 
generous master died ; the farm proved a ruin- 
ous bargain; and, to clench the misfortune, 
we fell into the hands of a factor, who sat 
for the picture I have drawn of one in my 
Tale of Twa Dog». My father was advanced 
in life when he married ; I was the eldest of 
seven children; and he, worn out by early 
hardships, was unfit for labour. My father's 
spirit was soon irritated, but not easily broken. 
There was a freedom in his lease in two years 
more ; and to weather these two years, we 
retrenched our expenses. We lived very 
poorly ; I was a dexterous ploughman, for my 
age ; and the next eldest to me was a brother 
(Gilbert) who could drive the plough very 
well, and help me to thrash the com. A novel- 
writer might perhaps have viewed these scenes 
with some satisfaction ; but so did not I ; my 
indignation ^et boils at the recollection of the 

8 ^1 factor's insolent threatening letters 

which used to set us all in tears. 

" This kind of life — the cheerless gloom of a 



hermit, with the unceasing moil of a galley- 
Rlave, brought me to my sixteenth year ; a 
little befure which period J first committed 
the sin of Rhyme. You know our country 
custom of coupling a man and woman together 
as partners in the labours of harvest. In my 
fifteenth autumn my parttier was a bewitching 
creature a year younger than myself. My scar- 
city of English denies me thepower of doing her 
justice in that language ; but you know the Scot- 
tish idiom — she was a bonnie, sweet, 'soTisie lass. 
In short, she altogether, unwittingly to herself, 
initiated me in that delicious passion, which, 
in spite of acid disappointment, gin-horse pru- 
dence, and book-worm philosophy, I hold to 
be the first of human joys, our dearest blessing 
here below ! How she caught the contagion, 
I cannot tell : you medical people talk much 
of infection from breathing the same air, the 
touch, &c. ; but I never expressly siid I loved 
her. Indeed, I did not know myself why I lik- 
ed so much to loiter behind with her, when re- 
turning in the evening from our labours ; why 
the tones of her voice made my heart-strings 
thrill like an ^olian harp : and particularly 
why my pulse beat such a furious ratan when 
I looked and fingered over her little hand to 
pick out the cruel nettle- stings and thistles. 
Among ber other love-inspiring qualities, she 
Bung sweetly ; and it was her favourite reel, to 
which I attempted giving an embodied vehicle 
in rhyme. I was not so presumptuous as to 
imagine that I could make verses like printed 
ones, composed by men who had Greek and 
Latin ; but my girl sung a song, which was 
said to be composed by a small country laird's 
son, on one of his father's maids, with whom 
he was in love ! and I saw no reason wh^ I 
might not rhvme as well as he ; for, excepting 
that he could smear sheep, and cast peats, his 
father living in the moor-lands, he had no more 
scholar- craft than myself.* 

« It majr interest some persons to peruse the first 
pnetioal production of oar Bard, and it Is therefore ex- 
tracted from a kind of common place book, which he 
8«>em8 to have beinin in his twentieth year ; and which 
he enliUed, ** Obtervalions, Hintt^ Songt, Scraps of 
Poetry^ Arc. by Robert Burnett, a man who had little 
art in making money, and still less in keeping it ; hut 
was, however, a man of some sense, a great deal of ho- 
nesty, and unbounded good, will to every creature, ra- 
tional or irrational As he was but little indebted to a 
scholastic education, and bred at a plough-tail, his per- 
furmances must be strouglytinctured with his unpolUhed 
rustic way of life ; bat as, I believe, they are really his 
own, it may be some entertainment to a rurious obfterr- 
er of humnu nature, to see how a ploughman thinks and 
feels, under the pressure of love, ambition, anxiety, 
grief, with the like cares and passions, which, however 
diversified by the modes and manners of life, operate 
pretty much alike, I believe, in all the species.'* 

** Pleasing, when youth is long expired, to trace, 
Tlie forms our pencil or our pen design *d. 

Such was our youthful air, and shape, and fnce. 
Such the soft image of oar youthfaJ mind." 


Tliis MS. book, to which our poet prefixed this ac 
count of himself, and of his intention in preparing it, 
contains several of his earlier poems, some as they were 

" Thus with me began love and poetry ; 
which at times have been my only, and till 
within the last twelve months, have been my 
highest enjoyment. My father struggled on 
till he reached the freedom in his lease, when 
he entered on a larger farm, about ten miles 
farther in the country. The nature of the 
bargain he made was such as to throw a little 
ready money into his hands at the commence- 
ment of his lease : otherwise the affair would 
have been impracticable. For four years we 
lived comfortably here ; but a difference com- 
mencing between him and his landlord, as to 
terms, after three years tossing and whirling 
in the vortex of litigation, my father was jtist 
saved from the horrors of a jail by a consump- 
tion, which, .after two vears' promises, kindly 
stepped in, and carried him away, to where the 
wicked cease from trovbling, and where the weary 
are at rest, 

** It is during the time that we lived on this 
farm that my little story is most eventful. I 
was, at the beginning of this period, perhaps 
the most ungainly, awkward boy in the parish 
— no solitaire was less acquainted with the 
ways of the world. What I knew of ancient 
story was gathered from Salmon' saxiA Guthrie*s 
geographical grammars ; and the ideas I had 
formed of modem manners, of literature, and 
criticism, I got from the Spectator. These, 
with Pope's Works, some plays of Shakspeare, 

printed, and others in their embryo state. The song 
alluded to is as follows. 

Tune. — ** I am a man unmarried.** 

O, once I lov'd a bonnie lass. 

Ay, and I love her still. 
And whilst that virtue warms my breast, 

I'll love my handsome Nell. 

Tai lal de ral, ^\ 

As bonnie tasses I hae seen. 

And mony full as braw. 
But for a modest gracefn* mien 

The like I never saw. 

A bonnie lass, I will confess, 

Is pleasant to the e*e. 
But without some better qualities 

She's no a lass for me. 

But Nelly's looks are blithe and sweet, 

And what is best of a* 
Her reputation was complete. 

And fair without a flaw. 

She dresses aye sae clean and neat. 

Both decent and genteel ; 
And then there^ something lu her gait 

Gars ony dress look weeT. 

A gaudy dress and gentle air 

May slightly touob the heart. 
But it's innocence and modesty 

That polishes the dart 

Tis this in Nelly pleases me, 

* ris this enchants my soul ; 
For absolutely in my breast 

She reigns without controL 

Tal lal de raU %e 

It muHt be confessed that these lines rive no incication 
of the future genius of Bums ; but^ejiimaelf seems to 
have been fond of them, prob«>ly from the revoUectious 
they excited. 



Ttdl and Dickson on Agriculture, the Pantheont . 
JLockt^s Etsaif on the Human Understanding, 
Stachhouse's History of the Bible, Justice's 
British Gardener's Directory, Bayle*s Lectures, 
Allan Ramsay's Works, Taylor*s Scripture 
Doctrine of Original Sin, A Select Collection 
of English Sotigs, and Hervey's Meditations, 
Dad formed the whole of my reading. The 
collection of songs was my vade mecum. I 
pored over them driving my cart, or walking 
to labour, song by song, verse by verse : care* 
fully noting the true tender, or sublime, 
from affectation and fustian. I am convinced 
I owe to this practice much of my critic craft, 
such as it is. 

** In my seventeenth year, to give my man- 
ners a brush, I went to a country dancing- 
school. — My father had an unaccountable anti- 
pathy against these meetings ; and my going 
was, what to this moment I repent, in opposi- 
tion to his wishes. My father, as I said be- 
fore, was subject to strong passions ; from that 
instance of disobedience in me, he took a sort 
of dislike to me, which I believe was one cause 
of the dissipation which marked my succeed- 
ing years. I say dissipation, comparatively with 
the strictness, and sobriety, and regularity of 
Presbyterian country life ; for though the 
Will o' Wispmeteorsofthoughtless whim were 
almost the sole lights of my path, yet early 
ingrained piety and virtue kept me for several 
years afterwards within the line of innocence. 
The great misfortune of my life was to want 
an aim. I hud felt early some stirrings of am- 
bition, but they were the blind gropings of 
Homer's Cyclops round the walls of his cave. 
I saw my father's situation entailed on me per- 
petual labour. The only two openings by 
which I could enter the temple of Fortune, 
was the gate of niggardly economy, or the path 
of little chicaning bargain-making. The iirst 
is so contracted an aperture, I never could 
squeeze myself into it ; — the last J always 
hated— there was contamination in the very 
entrance ! Thus abandoned of aim or view in 
life, with a strong appetite for sociability, as 
well from native hilarity, as from a pride of 
observation and remark; a constitutional mel- 
ancholy or hypochondriasm that made me fly 
solitude ; add to these incentives to social life, 
my reputation for bookish knowledge, a cer- 
tain wild logical talent, and a strength of 
thought, something like the rudiments of good 
sense ; and it will not seem surprising that I 
was generally a welcome guest where I visited, 
or any great wonder that, always where two or 
three met together, there was J among them. 
But far beyond all other impulses of my heart, 
was un penchant a t adorable moitie du genre hu- 
My heart was completely tinder, and 


was eternally lighted up by some goddess or 
other*, and as in every other warfare in this 
world my fortune was various, sometimes I 
was received with favour, and sometimes I was 
mortified with a repulse. At the plough, 
scythe, or reap hook, I feared no competitor. 

and thus I set absolute want at defiance ; and as 
I never cared fbither for nov labours than wbilo 
I was in actual exercise, I spent the eveninga 
in the way after my own heart. A country 
iad seldom carries on a love adventure without 
an assisting confidant. I possessed a curioiity, 
zeal, and intrepid dexterity, that recommended 
me as a proper second on these occasions; 
and I dare say, I felt ns much pleasure in be- 
ing in the secret of half the loves of the parish 
of Tarboltbn, as ever did statesmen in know- 
ing the intrigues of half the courts of Europe. 
—The veiT goose>featber in my hand seems to 
know instmctively the well-worn path of my 
imagination, the favourite theme of my song ; 
and is with difficulty restrained from giving 
you a couple of paragraphs on the love adven- 
tures of my compeers, the humble inmates of 
the farm-house and cottage ; but the grave sons 
of science, ambition, or avarice, baptize these 
things by the name of follies. To the sons 
and daughters of labour and poverty, they are 
matters of the most serious nature ; to them, 
the ardent hope, the stolen interview, the ten- 
der farewell, are the greatest and most deli- 
cious parts of their enjoyments. 

** Another circumstance in my life which 
made some alteration in my mind and manners, 
was, that I spent my nineteenth summer on a 
smuggling coast, a good distance from home, at 
a noted school, to learn mensuration, survey-, 
ing, dialling, &c. in which I made a pretty 
^ood progress. But I made a greater progress 
m the knowledge of mankind. The contraband 
trade was at that time very successful, and it 
sometimes happened tome to fall in with those 
who carried it on. Scenes of swaggering riot 
and roaring dissipation were till this time new 
to me ; but I was no enemy to social life. 
Here, though I learnt to fill my glass, and to 
mix without fear in a drunken squabble, yet I 
went on with a high hand with my geometry, 
till the sun entered Virgo, a month which is 
always a carnival in my bosom, when a charm- 
ing Jilette who lived next door to the school, 
overset my trigonometry, and set me off at a 
tangent from the sphere of my studies. I, 
however, struggled on with my sines, and co^ 
sines, for a few days more! but stepping into 
the garden one charming noon to take the 6un*8 
altitude, there I met my angel, 

" Like Proserpine gathering flowers. 
Herself a fairer flower." 

'* It was in vain to think of doing any more 
good at school. The remaining week I staid, 
I did nothing but craze the faculties of my 
soul about her, or steal out to meet her ; ana 
the last two nights of my star in the country, 
had sleep been a mortal sin, the image of this 
modest and innocent girl had kept me guiltless. 

<* I returned home very considerably improv- 
ed. My reading was enlarged with the very 
important addition of Thomson's and Shen- 
stone's Works ; I had seen human nature in a 



new pbasis: and I engaged several of my 
school- fellows to keep up a literary correspon- 
dence with me. This improved me in compo- 
sition. I had met with a collection of letters 
by the wits of Queen Anne^s reign, and I 
pored over them most devoutly ; I kept copies 
of any of my own letters that pleased me ; and 
a comparison between them and the composi- 
tion of most of my correspondents flattered my 
vanity. I carried this whim so far, that 
though I had not three farthings worth of busi- 
ness in the world, yet almost every post 
brought me as many letters as if I had been a 
broad plodding son of day-book and ledger. 

'* My life flowed on much in the same course 
till my twenty-third year. Vive tamour, et 
vive la bagatelle, were my' sole principles of ac- 
tion. The addition of two more authors to 
my library gave me great pleasure ; Sterne 
and M'Kenzie--' Tristram Shandy and The 
Man of Feeling — were my bosom favourites. 
Poesy was stiU a darling walk for my mind ; 
but it was only indulged in according to the 
humour of the hour. I had usuallv half a 
dozen or more pieces on hand ; I took up one 
or other, as it suited the momentary tone of 
the mind, and dismissed the work as it border- 
e I on fatigue. My passions, when once lighted 
up, raged like so many devils, till they got vent 
in rhyme ; and then the conning over my verses, 
like a spell, soothed all into quiet ! None of 
the rhymes of those days are in print, except 
Winter^ a Dirge, the eldest of my printed 
pieces ; The Death of Poor Mailie, John Bar- 
leycorn, and Songs, first, second, and third. 
Song second was the ebullition of that passion 
which ended the forementioned school busi- 

«* My twenty-third year was to me an im- 
portant era. rartly through whim, and partiy 
that I wished to set about doing something in 
life, I joined a flax-dresser in a neighbouring 
town (Irvine) to learn his trade. This was 

an unlucky affair. My -^ ; and, to 

finish the whole, as we were giving a welcom- 
ing carousal to the new year, the shop took 
fire, and burnt to ashes ; and I was left like a 
true poet, not worth a sixpence. 

" I was obliged to give up this scheme : the 
clouds of misfortune were gathering thick 
round my father's head ; and what was worst 
of all, he was visibly far gone in a consump- 
tion ; and to crovvn my distresses, a beile fiUe 
whom I adored, and who had pledged her soul 
to meet me in the field of matrimony, jilted 
me, with peculiar circumstances of mortifica- 
tion. The finishing evil that brought up the 
rear of this infernal file, was, my constitutional 
melancholy being increased to such a degree, 
that for three months I was in a state of mind 
scarcely to be envied by the hopeless wretches 
who have got their mittimus^-^epar^/rom me, 
ye accursed ! 

" From this adventure, I learned something 
of a town life ; but the principal thing which 
gave my mind a turn, was a frienlship I form- 

ed with a young fellow, a very noble character, 
but a hapless son of misfortune. He was the 
son of a simple mechanic ; but a great man in 
the neighbourhood taking him under bis patron- 
age gave him a genteel education, with a view 
of bettering his situation in life. The patron 
dying just as he was ready to launch out into 
the world, the poor fellow in despair went to 
sea ; where after a variety of good and ill for- 
tune, a little before I was acquainted with him, he 
had been set ashore by an American privateer, 
on the wild coast of Connaught, striped of 
every thing. I cannot quit this poor Yellow's 
story, without adding, that he is at this time 
master of a large West Indiaman belonging 
to the Thames* 

*< His niind was fraught with independence, 
magnanimity, and every manly virtue. I loved 
and admired him to a degree of enthusiasm, 
and of course strove to imitate him. In some 
measure, I succeeded ; I had pride before, but 
he taught it to flow in proper channels. His 
knowledge of the world was vastly superior 
to mine, and I was all attention to learn. He 
was the only man I ever saw, who was a 
greater fool than myself, where woman was 
the presiding star ; but he spoke of illicit love 
with the levity of a sailor, which hitherto I 
had regarded with horror Here his friend- 
ship did me a mischief ; and the consequence 
was that soon after I resumed the plough, I 
wrote the PoeVs Welcome,* My reading only 
increased, while in this town, by two stray 
volumes of Pamela and one of Ferdinand 
Count Fathom, which gave me some idea of 
novels. Rhyme, except some religious pieces 
that are in print, I had given up ; but meet- 
ing with Ferguson's Scottish Poems, I strung 
anew my wildly-sounding lyre with emulating 
vigour. When my father died, his all went 
among the hell-hounds that growl in the ken- 
nel of justice ; but we made a shift to collect 
a little money in the family amongst us, with 
which, to keep us together, my brother and I 
took a neighbouring farm. My brother want- 
ed mv hair-brained imagination, as well as my 
social and amorous madness: but in good 
sense, and every sober qualification, he was far 
my superior. 

" I entered on thi^arm with a full resolu- 
tion. Come, go to, I wiU be wise ! I read farm . 
ing books ; I calcukted crops ; I attended 
markets ; and in short, in spite of the devil, 
and the world, and the flesh, I believe, I should 
have been a wise man, but the first year from 
unfortunately buying bad seed, the second, 
from a late harvest, we lost half our crops. 
This overset all my wisdom, and I returned, 
like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was 
washed to her wallowing in the mire,f 

♦ Rob the Rhymer*! Welcome to his BMtard Child. 

f At the time that oor poet took the resolution of be. 
eominr tvue, he proeored a little book of blank paper, 
with the pnrpose (expressed in the first page) of making 
memorandums upon it Theae fmning memorandums 
fire curious enough ; many cf them have bevn written 



** J now began to be known in the neigh- 
bourhood 88 a maker of rhymes. The first of 
my poetic offspring that saw the light, was a 
burlesque lamentation on a quarrel between 

with a pencil, and are now obliterated, or at least illegible. 
A considerable number are however legible, and a spe- 
cimen may gratify the reader. It must be premised, 
that the poet kept the boolc by him several years — that 
he wrote upon it here and there, with the utmost irre- 
gularity, and that on the same page are notatioDS very 
oistant from each other as to tUne and plaee. 

EXTEMPORE. Aprii, 1782. 

whv the deuce should I repine, 
And l>e an ill foreboder ? 

I'm twenty-three, and five feet nine- 
Til go and be a sodger. 

1 gat some gear with meikle care, 
I held it weel thegither ; 

But now its gane, and something mair, 
I'll go and De a sodger. 

FR A GMENT. Tune—* Domild Bluk.' 

O leave novels, ye Mauchline bellea, 
Ye're safer at your spinning wheel } 

Such witching books are baited hooks, 
For rakish rooks like Rob Moesglel. 

Sing (alt ^h ^y* ^c. 

Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons, 
Tliey make your youthful fancies reel, 

Tliey neat your brains, and fire your veins, 
And then you're prey for Rob MoscgieL 

Beware a tongue that's smoothly hung ; 

A heart that warmly seeks to feel \ 
That ff eling heart but acts a part, 

*Tis rakbh art in Rob Mossgiel. 

The frank address, the soft caress. 
Are worse than poiaon'd darts of steel. 

Hie frank address, and politesse. 
Are all Aiicsse in Rob Mossgiel. 

For he's far aboon Dunkel* the night, 
Maun white the stick and a* that 

Metn.—To get for ^fr Johnston these two Songs : 
• Molly f Molly t my dear honey. '•^* The cock and the 
hen, the deer in her den\ &c. 

Ah! Chlorin! Sir Peter Halket of Pitferran, the 
author. — l^ote^ He married her — the heiress i»f Pitferran. 

Colonel George Crawford, the autlior of Doicn the 
Bum Davy. 

Pinkey house, by J. I^ntchetL 

3/v i:pi on Deary ! and Amynta^ by Sir G. Elliot. 

Willie tctu a xcanton fVag, was made on Walkinshaw 
of VVnlkinsbaw, near Paisley. 

/ /oV tui a laddie hut ane, Mr Clonzee. 

The bonnie teee MiVi^^beautifui — Lundie** Dream-^ 
very beautiful 

He tilPt and she tilVt—ViW,e% bien. 

Armstrong's Farewell — fine. 

The Author of the Highland Queen was a Mr M'lver, 
purser of the Sulbay. 

Fife and a' the land about it, R. Ferguson. 

The author of The Bush aboon Trt^uair was a Dr 

Polwart on the Green, composed by Captain John 
Drnmmond M'Gregor, or Boehaldie. 

Mem.'-To inquire If Mr Cockburn was the author of 
1 ka*e teen the stniHng, &c. 

two reverend Calvinists. both of them dramatu 
penona in my Hdy Fair. I had a notion 
myself, that the piece had some merit ; but to 
prevent the worst, J gave a copy of it to a 
friend who was very fond of such things, and 
told him that I could not guess who was the 
author of it, but that I thought it pretty clever. 
With a certain description of the dei^y, as 
well as laity, it met with a roar of applause. 
Holy Wiliie*s Prayer next made its appearance, 
and alarmed the kirk> session so much, that 
thejr held several meetings to look over their 
spiritual artillery, if haply any of it might be 
ppinted against profane rhymers. Unluckily 
for me, m^ wanderings led me on another side, 
within pomt blank shot of their heaviest metal. 
This is the unfortunate story that gave rise to 
my printed poem, The Lament, This was a 
most melancholy affair, which I cannot yet 
bear to reflect on, and had very nearly given 
me one or two of the princi[>ai qualifications 
for a place among those who have lost the 
chart, and mistaken the reckoning of Ration, 
ality.* I gave up my part of the farm to my 
brother ; in truth it was only nominally mine ; 
and made what little preparation was in my 
power for Jamaica. But, before leaving my 
native country for ever, I resolved to publish 
my poems. I weighed my productions as im- 
partially as was in my power : I thought they 
had merit ; and it was a delicious idea that I 
fihould be called a clever fellow, even though 
it should never reach my tars— a poor negro- 
driver,--or perhaps a victim to that inhospita- 
ble clime, and gone to the world of spirits ! 
I can truly say, that pauvre inconnu as I then 
was, I had pretty nearly as high an idea of 
myself and of my works as I have at this mo- 
ment, when the public has decided in their 
favour. It ever was my opinion, that the 
mistakes and blunders, both in a rational and 
religious point of view, of which we see thou- 
sands daily guilty, are owing to their ignorance 
of themselves.— To know mjrself, had been 
all along my constant study. I weighed my- 
self alone ; I balanced myself with others : I 
watched every means of information, to see 
how much ground I occupied as a man and as 
a poet : I studied assiduously nature's design 
in my formation— where the lights and shades 
in my character were intended. I was pretty 
confident my poems would meet with some 
applause : but, at the worst, the roar of the 
Atlantic would deafen the voice of censure, 
and the novelty of West Indian scenes make 
me forgfet neglect. I threw off six hundred 
copies, of which I had got subscriptions for 
about three hundred and fifty. — My vanity was 
highly gratified by the reception I met with 
from the public ; and besides I pocketed, all 

The above may serve as a spedmea All the notra 
on farmiuir are obliterated. 

* An explanation of this will be fomid hereafter. 



expenses deducted, nearly twenty pounds. 
This sum came very seasonably, as I was 
thinking of indenting myself, for want of 
money to procure my passage. As soon as I 
was master of nine guineas, the price of waft- 
ing me to the torrid zone, I took a steerage 
passage in the first ship that was to sail from 
the Clyde ; for 


Hungry ruin had me in the wind." 

** I had been for some days skulking from 
covert to covert, under all the terrors of a jail ; 
as some ill-advised people bad uncoupled the 
merciless pack of the law at my heels. I had 
taken the last farewell of my few friends ; my 
chest was on the road to Greenock ; I bad 
composed the last song I should ever measure 
in Caledonia, The gloomy night is gathering 
fastf when a letter from Dr Blacklock, to a 
friend of mine, overthrew all my schemes, by 
opening new prospects to my poetic ambition. 
The Doctor belonged to a set of critics, for 
whose applause I hud not dared to hope. His 
opinion that I would meet with encouragement 
in Edinburgh for a second edition, fired me so 
much, that away I posted for that city, with- 
out a single acquaintance, or a single letter of 
introduction. The baneful star, that had so 
long shed its blasting influence in my zenith, 
for once made a revolution to the nadir ; and 
a kind Providence placed me under the patron, 
age of one of the noblest of men, the Earl of 
Glencairn. Oublie moi, Grand Dieu, si ja- 
mais Je toublie ! 

** I need relate no farther. At Edinburgh 
I was in a new world ; I mingled among many 
classes of men, but all of them new to me, and 
I was all attention to catch the characters and 
the manners living as they rise* Whether I 
have profited, time will show. 

" My most respectful compliments to Miss 
W. Her very elegant and friendly letter I 
cannot answer at present, as my presence is 
requisite in Edinburgh, and I set out to-mor- 


A t the period of our poet*8 death, his bro- 
ther, Gilbert Burns, was ignorant that he had 
himself written the foregoing narrative of his 
lite while in Ayrshire • and having been ap- 
plied to by Mrs Dun lop for some memoirs of 
his brother, he complied with her request in a 
letter, from which the following narrative is 

♦ There are various copies of this letter, in the au- 
thor^s haiid-ivritiug ; and one of tliese, evidently cor. 
rected, ui iu the boi»k in which he had copied* several of 
his letters. Hits has been used for the press, with 
some omisiiioiis, and one slight alteration suerested by 
OUkert Burns. 

chiefly extracted. When Gilbert Bums after- 
wards saw the letter of our poet to Dr Moore, 
he made some annotations upon it, which shall 
be noticed as we proceed. 

Robert Bums was born on the 20th day of 
January, 1759, in a small house about two 
miles from the town of Ayr, and within a few 
hundred yards of AUoway Church, which his 
poem of Tarn o' Shanter has rendered immor- 
tal.* The name which the poet and his bro- 
ther modernized into Burns, was originally 
Bumes or Burness. Their father, William 
Buraes, was the son of a farmer in Kincardine- 
shire, and had received the education common 
in Scotland to persons in his condition of life : 
he could read and write, and had some know- 
ledge of arithmetic His family having fallen 
into reduced circumstances, he was compelled 
to leave his home in his nineteenth year, and 
turned his steps towards the south in quest of 
a livelihood. The same necessity attended his 
elder brother Robert. *• I have often heard 
my father, says Gilbert Burns, in his letter 
to Mrs Dttiilop, ** describe the anguish of mind 
he felt when they parted on the top of a hill on 
the confines of their native place, each going 
off his several way in search of new adven- 
tures, and scarcely knowing whither he went. 
My father undertook to act as a gardener, and 
shaped his course to Edinburgh, where he 
wrought hard when he could get work, passing 
through a variety of difficulties. Still, however, 
he endeavoured to spare something for the sup- 
port of his aged parent ; and I recollect hearing 
him mention his having sent a bank-note fur 
this purpose, when money of that kind was so 
scarce in Kincardineshire, that they scarcely 
knew how to employ it when it arrived." From 
Edinburgh William Burnes past westward into 
the county of Ayr, where he engaged himself 
as a gardener to the laird of Fairley, with 
whom he lived two years ; then changing his 
service for that of Crawford of Doonside. At 
length, being desirous of settling in life, he 
took a perpetual lease of seven acres of land 
from Dr Campbell, physician in Ayr, with the 
view of commencing nurseryman and public 
gardener; and having built a house upon it 
with his own hands, married in December, 
1757, Agnes Brown, the mother of our poet, 
who still survives. Thte first fruit of this mar- 
riage was Robert, the subject of these memoirs, 
born on the 2Dth of January, 1759, as has 
already been mentioned. Before William 
Burnes had made much progress in preparing 
his nursery, he was withdrawn from that under- 
taking by Mr Ferguson, who purchased the 
estate of Doonhulm, in the immediate neigh- 
bomrhood, and engaged him as his gardener 

♦ This house is on the right hand side of the road front 
Ayr to May bote, which forms a part of the road from 
Glasgow to Port. Patrick. When the poet*« father af. 
ter wards removed toTarlwltoo parish, he Mtldhis lease, 
hold right in this houi^e, and a few acres of land adjoin, 
iiig, U> the corporation of shoemakers in Ayr. It is 
now a country ale-house. 




and overseer ; and this was bis situation when 
our poet was bom. Though in the service of 
Mr Ferguson, be lived in his own bouse, bis 
wife managing her family and little dair^, which 
consisted, sometimes of two, sometimes of 
three milch cows ; and this state of unambi- 
tious content continued till the year 1766. His 
son Robert was sent by him, in his sixth year, 
to a school at AUoway Miln, about a mile dis- 
tant, taught by a person of the name of Camp- 
bell ; but this teacher being in a few months 
appointed master of the workhouse at Ayr, 
William Bumes, in conjunction with some 
other heads of families, engaged John Mur- 
doch in bis stead. The education of our poet, 
and of his brother Gilbert, was in common ; 
and of their proficiency under Mr Murdoch 
we have the following account : " With him 
we learnt to read English tolerably well,* and 
to write a little. He taught us, too, the Eng- 
lish grammar. I was too young to profit much 
from his lessons in grammar; but Robert 
made some proficiency in it — a circumstance 
of considerable weight in the unfolding of his 
genius and character ; as he soon became re- 
markable for the fluency and correctness of 
bis expression, and read the few books that 
came in his way with much pleasure and im- 
provement ; for even then he was a reader, 
when he could get a bouk. Murdoch, whose 
library at that time had no great variety in it, 
lent him The Life of Hannibal, which was the 
first book he read (the school-books excepted) 
and almost the only one be had an opportunity 
of reading while be was at school; for The 
JAfe of Wallace, which he classes with it in one 
of bis letters to you, be did not see for some 
years afterwards, when he borrowed it from 
the blacksmith who shod our horses.** 

It appears that William Bumes approved 
himself greatly in the service of Mr Ferguson, 
by his intelligence, industry, and integrity. In 
consequence of this, with a view of promoting 
his interest, Mr Ferguson leased him a farm, 
of which we have the following account -. 

** The farm was upwards of seventy acres f 
(between eighty and ninety, English statute 
measure), the rent of which was to be forty 
pounds annually for the first six years, and 
afterwards forty.five pounds. My father en- 
deavoured to sell his leasehold property, for 
the purpose of stocking this farm, but at that 
time was unable, and Mr Ferguson lent him a 
hundred pounds for that purpose. He re- 
moved to his new situation at Whitsuntide, 
1766. It was, I think, not abOve two years 
after this, that Murdoch, our tutor and friend, 
left this part of the country ; and tbere being 
no school near us, and our little services being 
useful on the farm, my father undertook to 
teach us arithmetic in the winter evenings, by 
candle-light ; and in this way my two elder 

* Lett«r from Gilbert Bums to Mrs Dunlop. 
f L«tt«r of Gilbert Burns to Mrs Dunlop. The 
name of this farm ia Mount Oiiphant, in Ayr parish. 

Sisters got all the education tbey received. I 
remember a circumstance Uiat happened at 
this time, which, though trifling in itselt; is 
fresh in my memory, and may aerve to illus- 
trate the early character of my brother. Mar- 
doch came to spend a night with us, and to 
take his leave, when be was about to go into 
Carrick. He brought us, as a present and 
memorial of him, a small compendium of 
English Grammar, and the tragedy of TUu$ 
Andronicua ; and l^ way of passing the even^ 
ing, he began to read the play uoud. We 
were all attention for some time, till presently 
the whole party was dissolved in tears. A 
female in the play (I have but a confused re- 
membrance of it) bad her bands chopt off, and 
her tongue cut out, and then was insultingly 
desired to call for water to wash her bands. 
At this, in an agony of distress, we with one 
voice desired he wottkl read no more. Mv 
father obserypd, that if we would not hear it 
out, it would be needless to leave the play with 
us. Robert replied, that if it was left he 
would bum it My father was going to chide 
him for this ungrateful return to Us tutor's 
kindness; but Murdoch interfered, declaring 
that he liked to see so much sensibility ; and 
be left The School for Love, a comedy (trans- 
lated, I think, from the French), in its phce.*'* 
** Nothing," continues Gilbert Bums, *< could 
be more retired than our general manner of 
living at Mount Oliphant ; we rarely saw any 
body but the members of our own family. 
There were no boys of our own age, or near 
it, in the neighbourhood. Indeed the greatest 
part of the land in the vicinity was at that 
time possessed by shopkeepere, and people of 
that stamp, who had retired from business, or 
who kept their farm in the country, at the 
same time that they followed business in town. 
My father was for some time almost the only 
companion we had. He convereed familiarly 
on all subjects with us, as if we had been men ; 
and was at great pains, while we accompanied 
bim in the laboure of the farm, to lead the 
conversation to such subjects as might tend to 
increase ou^knowledge, or confirm us in vir- 
tuous habits. He borrowed Salnum*9 Geogra^ 

* It Is to be remembered that the poet was only nine 
years of affe, and the relater of this incident under 
eight, at the time it happened. The effect was very 
natural in t*hildren of sensibility at their affe. At a 
more mature period of the judgment, snch ^snrd re- 
presentations are calculated rather to produce disgust 
or laughter, than tears. The scene to which Gilbert 
Bums alludes, opens thus : 

Tittu Amlronicu*t Act II. Scene S. 

Ent^r Demetrius and Chiron, with Lavinia raviahed^ 
her hands cut off, and her tongue cut ouL 

Vflxy is this silly play still printed as Shalnpeare's. 
against the opinion of all the best critics P l^e bifra 
or Avon was guilty of many extravagancies, but he 
always performed what he intended to perform. That 
he ever excited in a British mind (for the French 
critics must be set aside) disgust or ridiciile, where he 
meant to have awakened pity or horror, is what will 
not be imputed to that master of the passions. 



phical Grammar for us, and endeavoured to 
make us acquainted with the situation and 
history of the different countries in the world ; 
while, from a book-society in Ayr, he pro- 
cured for us the reading of Derham^s Physico 
and Astro- Theobgy, and Ray^s Wisdom of 
God in the Creation, to ^ve us some idea of 
astronomy and natural history. Robert read 
all these books with an avidity and industry 
scarcely to be equalled. My father had been 
a subscriber to Stachhouse's History of the 
BibUf then lately published by James IVfeuros 
in Kilmarnock : from this Robert collected a 
competent knowledge of ancient history ; for 
no book was so voluminous as tu slacken his 
industry, or so antiquated as to damp his re- 
searches. A brother of my mother, who had 
lived with us some time, and had learnt some 
arithmetic by our winter evening^s candle, 
went into a bookseller*s shop in Ayr, to pur- 
chase The Ready Reckoner^ or Tradesman's 
sure Guide, und a book to teach him to write 
letters. Luckily, in place of The Complete 
Letter- Writer, he got, by mistake, a small 
collection of letters by the most eminent writ- 
ers, with a few sensible directions for attain- 
ing ati easy epistolary style. This book was 
to Robert of the greatest consequence. It 
inspired him with a strong desire to excel in 
letter-writing, while it furnished him with 
models by some of the first writers in our 

** My brother was about thirteen or fourteen, 
when my father, regretting that we wrote so 
ill, sent us, week about, during a summer 
quarter, to the parish school of Dalrymple, 
which, though between two and three miles 
distant, was the nearest to us, that we might 
oave an opportunity of remedying this defect. 
About this time a bookish acquaintance of my 
father's procured us a reading of two volumes 
of Richardson's Pamela^ which was the first 
novel we read, and the only part of Richard- 
son's works my brother was acquainted with 
till towards the period of his commencing 
author. Till that time too he remained un 
acquainted with Fielding, with SmoUet, (two 
volumes of Ferdinand Count Fathom^ and two 
volumes of Peregrine Pickle excepted), with 
Hume, with Robertson, and almost all our 
authors of eminence of the later times. 1 
recollect ir.deed my father borrowed a volume 
of English history from Mr Hamilton of 
Bourtree- hill's gardener. It treated of the 
reign of James the First, and his unfortunate 
son, Charles, but I do not know who was the 
author ; all that I remember of it is something 
of Charles's conversation with his children. 
About this time Murdoch, our former teacher, 
after having been in different places in the 
country, and having taught a fchool some time 
in Dumfries, came to be the established teacher 
of the English language in Ayr, a circum- 
stance of considerable consequence to us. The 
remembrance of my father's former friendship, 
and his attachment to my brother, made him 

do every thing in his power for our improve- 
ment. He sent us Pope*s works, and some 
other poetry, the first that we had an oppor- 
tunity of reading, excepting what is contained 
in The English Collection, and in the volume 
of The Edinburgh Magazine tor 1772 ; except- 
ing also those excellent new songs that are 
hawked about the country in baskets, or ex- 
posed on stalls in the streets. 

" The summer after we had been at Dal- 
rymple school, my father sent Robert to Ayr, 
to revise his English grammar, with his former 
teacher. He had been there only one week, 
when he was obliged to return, to assist at the 
harvest. When the harvest was over, he went 
back to school, where be remained two weeks ; 
and this completes the account of his school 
education, excepting one summer quarter some 
time afterwards, that he attended the parish 
school of Kirk. Oswald (where he lived with 
a brother of my mother's) to learn survey- 

*' During the two last weeks that he was 
with Murdoch, he himself was engaged in 
learning French, and he communicated the in- 
structions he received to my brother, who, 
when he returned, brought with him a French 
dictionary and grammar, and the Adventures 
of Telemachus in the original. In a little 
while, by the assistance of these books, he 
acquired such a knowledge of the language, 
as to read and understand any French author 
in prose. This was considered as a sort o( 
prodigy, and, through the medium of Mur- 
doch, procured him the acquaintance of several 
lads in Ayr, who were at that time gabbling 
French, and the notice of some families, par- 
ticularly that of Dr Malcolm, where a know- 
ledge of French was a recommendation. 

" Observing the facility with which he had 
acquired the French language, Mr Robinson, 
^ht. established writing-master in Ayr, and Mr 
Alurdoch's particular friend, having himself 
Hcquired a considerable knowledge of the 
Latin language by his o\m industry, without 
ever having learned it at school, advised Robert 
to make the same attempt, promising him 
every assistance in his power. Agreeably to 
this advice, he purchased The Rudiment* oftJyt 
Latin Tongue, but finding this study dry and 
uninteresting, it was quickly laid aside. He 
frequently returned to his Rudiments on any 
little chagrin or disappointment, particularly 
in his love affairs; but the Latin seldom pre- 
dominated more than a day or two at a time, 
or a week at most. Observing himself the 
ridicule that wjould attach to this sort of con- 
duct if it were known, he made two or three 
humorous stanzas on the subject, which I can- 
not now recollect, but they all ended, 

* So ini to roy Latin agiiiii.' 

'* Thus you see Mr Murdoch \vm a princi- 
pal means of my brother's improvement. 
Worthy man I though foreign to my present 

c 2 



purpose, I cannot take leave of him without 
tracing his future history. He continued for 
some years a respected and useful teacher at 
Ayr, till one evening that he had been over- 
taken in liquor, he happened to speak some- 
what disrespectfully of Dr Dalrymple, the 
parish minister, who had not paid him that 
attention to which he thought himself entitled. 
In Ayr he might as well have spoken bias* 
phemy. He found it proper to give up his 
appointment. He went to London, where he 
still lives, a private teacher of French. He 
hiis been a considerable time married, and keeps 
a shop of stationary wares. 

" The father of Dr Paterson, now physi- 
cian at Ayr, was, I believe, a native of Aber- 
deenshire, and was one of the established 
teachers in Ayr when my father settled in the 
neighbourhood. He eagerly recognised my 
father as a fellow native of the north of Scot- 
land, and a certain degree of intimacy subsisted 
between them during Mr Paterson's life. 
After his death, his widow, who is a very 
genteel woman, and of great worth, delighted 
in doing what she thought her husband would 
have wished to have done, and assiduously 
kept up her attentions to all his acquaintance. 
She kept alive the intimacy with our family, 
by frequently inviting my father and mother 
to her house on Sundays, when she met them 
at church. 

" When she came to know my brother's 
passion for books, she kindly offered us the 
use of her husband's library, and from her we 
got the Spectator, Pope's Translation of 
Homer f and several other books that were of 
use to us. Mount Oliphant, the farm my fa- 
ther possessed in the parish of Ayr, is almost 
the very poorest soil I know of in a state of 
cultivation. A stronger proof of this I can- 
not give, than that, notwithstanding the ex- 
traordinary rise in the value of lands in Scot- 
land, it was, after a considerable sum laid out 
in improving it by the proprietor, let, a few 
years ago, five pounds per annum lower than 
the rent paid for it by my father thirty years 
ago. My father, in consequence of this, soon 
came into difficulties, which were increased by 
the loss of several of his cattle by accidents 
and disease. — To the buffetings of misfortune, 
we could only oppose hard labour and the most 
rigid economy. We lived very sparingly. For 
several years butcher's meat was a stranger in 
the house, while all the members of the family 
exerted themselves to the utmost of their 
strength, and rather beyond it, in the labours 
of the farm. My brother, at the age of 
thirteen, assisted in threshing the crop ol corn, 
and at fifteen was the principal labourer on the 
farm, for we had no hired servant, male or 
female. The anguish of mind we felt at our 
tender years, under these straits and difficulties, 
was very great To think of our father grow- 
ing old (for he was now above fifty,) broken 
down with the long continued fatigues of bis 
life, with a wife and five other children, and in 

a declining state of circumstances, these re* 
flections produced in my brother's mind and 
mine sensations of the deepest distress. I 
doubt not but the hard labour and sorrow of 
this period of his life, was in a great measure 
the cause of that depression of spirits with 
which Robert was so often afflicted through 
his whole life afterwards. At this time ne 
was almost constantly afflicted in the evenings 
with a dull headache, which, at a future period 
of his life, was exchanged for a palpitation of 
the heart, and a threatening of fainting and 
suffocation in his bed, in the night-time. 

<< By a stipulation in m^ father's lease, he 
had a right to throw it up, if he thought pro- 
per, at the end of every sixth year. He 
attempted to fix himself in a better farm at the 
end of the first six years, but failing in that 
attempt, he continued where he was for six 
years more. He then took the farm of Loch- 
lea, of 130 acres, at the rent of twenty shillings 
an acre, in the parish of Tarbolton, of Mr 

, then a merchant in Ayr, and 

now (1797) a merchant in Liverpool. He 
removed to this farm at Whitsunday, 1777, and 
possessed it only seven years. No writing 
had ever been made out of the conditions of 
the lease ; a misundersunding took place re- 
specting them ; the subjects in dispute were 
submitted to arbitration, and the decision 
involved my father's affairs in ruin. He lived 
to know of this decision, but not to see any 
execution in consequence of it. He died on 
the 13th of February, 1784. 

" The seven years we lived in Tarbolton 
parish (extending from the seventeenth to the 
twenty-fourth of my brother's age), were not 
marked b^ much uterary improvement*, but 
during this time the foundation was laid of 
certain habits in my brother's character, which 
afterwards became but too prominent, and 
which malice and envy have taken delight to 
enlanpe on. Though, when young, be was 
bashnil and awkward in his intercourse with 
women, yet when he approached manhood, his 
attachment to their society became very strong, 
and he was constantly the victim of some fair 
enslaver. The symptoms of his passion were 
often such as nearly to equal tnose of the 
celebrated Sappho. I never indeed knew that 
hejainted, sunk, and died away ; but the agita- 
tions of his mind and body exceeded any thing 
of the kind 1 ever knew in real life. He had 
always a particular jealousy of people who 
were richer than himself, or who had more 
consequence in life. His love, therefore, 
rarely settled on persons of this description. 
When he selected any one, out of the sove- 
reignty of his good pleasure, to whom he 
should pa^ his particuhir attention, she wa» 
instantly invested with a sufficient stock of 
charms, out of the plentiful stores of bis own 
imagination ; and there was often a great dis- 
similitude between his fair captivator, as she 
appeared to others, and as she seemed when 
invested with the attributes be gave her. One 


XXXV 11 

generally reigned paramount in his affections : 
but as Yorick*8 affections flowed out toward 

Madame de L at the remise door, while 

the eternal vows of Eliza were upon him, so 
Robert was frequently encountering other 
attractions, which formed so many under plots 
in the drama of his love. As these connexions 
were governed by the strictest rules of virtue 
and modesty, (from which he never deviated 
till he reached his 23d year), he became anxi- 
ous to be in a situation to marry. This was 
not likely to be soon the case while he re- 
mained a farmer, as the stocking of a farm 
required a sum of money he had no probabi- 
lity of being master of for a great while. He 
began, therefore, to think of trying some other 
line of life. He and I had for several years 
taken land of my father for the purpose of 
raiding tlax on our own account. In the 
course of selling it, Robert began to think of 
turning flax-dresser, both as being suitable to 
his grand view of settling in life, and as sub- 
servient to the flax raising. He accordingly 
wrought at the business of a flax-dresser in 
Irvine for six months, but abandoned it at that 
period, as neither agreeing with his health nor 
inclination. In Irvine he had (Contracted some 
acquaintance of a freer manner of thinking and 
living than he had been used to, whose society 
prepared him for overleaping the bounds of 
rigid virtue which had hitherto restrained him. 
Towards the end of the period under review 
(in his 24th yehr), and soon after bis father's 
death, he was furnished with the subject of his 
epistle to John Rankin. During this period 
also he became a freemason, which was his 
first introduction to the life of a boon com- 
panion. Yet, notwithstanding these circum- 
stances, and the praise be has bestowed on 
Scotch drink (which seems to have misled his 
historians), I do not recollect, during these 
seven years, nor till towards the end of his 
commencing author (when his growing cele- 
brity occasioned his being often in company), 
to have ever seen him intoxicated ; nor was he 
at all given to drinking. A stronger proof of 
the general gobiiety of his conduct need not 
be required than what I am about to give. 
During the whole of the time we lived in the 
farm of Lochlea with my father, he allowed 
my brother and me such wages for our labour 
as he gave to other labourers, as a part of 
which, every article of our clothing manufac- 
tured in the family was regularly accounted for. 
When my father's affairs drew near a crisis, 
Robert and I took the farm of Mossgiel, con- 
sisting of 1 18 acres, at the rent of £90 per an. 
num (the farm on which I live at present) from 
Mr Gavin Hamilton, as an asylum for the 
family in case of the worst. It was stocked 
by the property and individual saWngs of the 
whole family, and was a joint concern among 
us. Every member of the family was allowed 
ordinary wages for the labour he performed on 
the farm. My brother's allowance and mine 
was seven pounds per annum each. And dur- 

ing the whole time this family concern lasted, 
which was four years, as well as during the 
preceding period at Lochlea, his expenses 
never in any one year exceeded his slender in- 
come. As I was intrusted with the keeping 
of the family accounts, it is not possible that 
there can be any fallacy in this statement in 
my brother's favour. His temperance and fru- 
gality were every thing that could be wished. 

** The farm of Mossgiel lies very high, and 
mostly on a cold wet bottom. The first four 
years that we were on the farm were very 
frosty, and the spring was very late. Our 
crops in consequence were very unprofitable ; 
and, notwithstanding our utmost diligence and 
economy, we found ourselves obliged to give 
up oiu* bargain, ynth the loss of a considerable 
part of our original stock. It was during 
these four years that Robert formed his con- 
nexion with Jean Armour, afterwards Mrs 
Burns This connexion could no longer be 
concealedf about the time we came to a final 
determination to quit the farm. Robert durst 
not engage with a family in his poor unsettled 
state, but was anxious to shield his partner 
by every means in his power from the conse- 
quences of their imprudence. It was agreed 
therefore between them, that they should make 
a legal acknowledgment of an irregular and 
private marriage ; that he should go to Jamaica, 
to push his fortune; and that she should re- 
main with her father till it might please Pro- 
vidence to put the means of supporting a family 
in his power. 

** Mrs Bums was a great favourite of her 
father's. The intimation of a private mar- 
riage was the first suggestion he received of 
her real situation. He was in the greatest 
distress, and fainted away. The marriage did 
not appear to him to make the matter any bet- 
ter. A husband in Jamaica appeared to him 
and his wife little better than none, and an ef- 
fectual bar to any other prospects of a settle- 
ment m life that their daughter might have. 
They therefore expressed a wish to her, that 
the written papers which respected the mar- 
riage should be cancelled, and thus the mar- 
riage rendered void. In her melancholy state 
she felt the deepest remorse at having brought 
such heavy affliction on parents that loved her 
so tenderly, and submitted to their entreaties. 
Their wish was mentioned to Robert. He 
felt the deepest anguish of mind. He offered 
to stay at home and provide for his wife and 
family in the best manner that his daily labours 
could provide for them ; that being the only 
means in his power. Even this offer they did 
not approve of; for humble as Miss Armour's 
station was, and great though her imprudence 
had been, she still, in the eyes of her partial 
parents, might look to a better connexion than 
that with my friendless and unhappy brother, 
at that time without house or biding -place. 
Robert at length consented to their wishes ; 
but his feelings on this occasion were of the 
most distracting nature : and the impression of 



sorrow was not effaced, till by a regular mar- 
riage tbey were indissolubly united. In tbe 
state of mind wbich this separation produced, 
he wished to leave tbe country as soon as pos- 
sible, and agreed with Dr Douglas to go out 
to Jamaica as an assistant overseer, or, as I 
believe it is called, a book-keeper, on bis 
estate. As be bad not sufficient money to pay 
bis passage, and tbe vessel in wbich Dr Dou- 
glas was to procure a passage for bim was not 
expected to sail for some time, Mr Hamilton 
advised bim to publish his poems in tbe mean- 
time bv subscription, as a likely way of get- 
ting a little money to provide bim more liber- 
ally in necessaries for Jamaica. Agreeably to 
this advice, subscription bills were printed im- 
mediately, and tbe printing was commenced 
at Kilmarnock, bis preparations going on at 
the same time for his voyage. The reception, 
however, which bis poems met with in the 
world, and the friends they procured him, 
made him change his resolution of going to 
Jamaica, and he was advised to go to Edin- 
burgh to publish a second edition. On bis 
return, in happier circumstances, he renewed 
his connexion with Mrs Burns, and rendered 
it permanent by a union for life. 

** Thus, Madam, have I endeavoured to gtve 
you a simple narrative of tbe leading circum- 
stances in my brother's early life. The re- 
maining part he spent in Edinburgh or Dum- 
fries-shire, and its incidents are as well known 
to you as to me. His genius having procured 
him your patronage and friendship, this gave 
rise to the correspondence between you, in 
which, I believe, his sentiments were delivered 
Hith the most respectful, but most unreserved 
confidence, and which only terminated with the 
last days of his life." 

This narrative of Gilbert Burns may serve 
as a commentary on the preceding sketch of 
our poet's life by himself. It will be seen 
that the distraction of mind which he mentions 
(p xxxii,) arose from the distress and sorrow in 
wbich be had involved bis future wife. Tbe 
whole circumstances attending this connexion 
are certainly of a very singular nature. • 

The reader will perceive, from the foregoing 
narrative how much the children of William 
Bumes were indebted to their father, who was 
certainly a man of uncommon talents ; though 
it does not appear that he possessed any 
portion of that vivid imagination for wbich the 
subject of these memoirs was distinguished. 
In page xxx. it is obsen'ed by our poet, that 
bis father had an unaccountable antipathy to 
dancing-schools, and that his attending one of 

* In pag* xxxiii. the poet mentions bU "skulking 
from covert to covert, unaer all the terrors of » JaiL*^— 
The ** pack of the law were uncoupled at his heels," to 
obliire him to find security for the maintenance of his 
twin.children, whom he was not permitted to legit i- 
niate by a marriage with their mother. 

these brought on him his displeasure, and even 
dislike. On this observation Gilbert has 
made the following remark, which seems en- 
titled to implicit credit:— *< I wonder how 
Robert could attribute to our &tber that last- 
ing resentment of his going to a dancing-school 
against his will, of which be was' incapable. 
I believe the truth was, that be, about this 
time, began to see the dangerous impetuosity 
of my brother's passions, as well as his not being 
amenable to counsel, which often irritated my 
father ; and which he would naturally think a 
dancing-school was not likely to correct. But 
he was proud of Robert's genius, which he be- 
stowed more expense in cultivating than on the 
rest of tbe family, in the instances of sending 
him to Ayr and Kirk- Oswald schools ; and he 
was greatly delighted with his warmth of heart, 
and his conversational powers. He had in- 
deed that dislike of dancing- schools which 
Robert mentions; but so far overcame it during 
Robert's first month of attendance, that he 
allowed all the rest of the family that were 
fit for it, to accompany him during the second 
month. Robert excelled in dancing, and was 
for some time distractedly fond of it." 

In the original letter to Dr Moore, our poet 
described bis ancestors as <* renting lands oi 
the noble Keiths of Marischal, and as having 
bad the honour of sharuag their fate." ** I do 
not," continues he, ** use the word honour 
with any reference to political principles ; 
loyal and disloyal I take to be merely relative 
terms, in that ancient and ftrmidable court, 
known in this country by the name of Club- 
law, where the right is always with the 
strongest. But those who dare welcome ruin 
and shake hands with infamy, for what thev 
sincerely believe to be tbe cause of their God, 
or their king, are, as JVfork Antony says in 
Shakspeare, of Brutus and Cassias, nowmrabU 
men, I mention this circumstance, because it 
threw my father on the world at lar^^e." 

This paragraph has been omitted m printing 
tbe letter, at tbe desire of Gilbert Bums ; 
and it would have been unnecessary to have 
noticed it on the present occasion, had not 
several manuscript copies of that letter been in 
circulation. *< I do not know," observes 
Gilbert Bums, ** bow my brother could be 
misled in tbe account he has given of the 
Jacobitism of his ancestors.— I believe the 
Earl of Marischal forfeited his title and estate 
in 1715, before my father was born; and 
among a collection of parish-certificates in his 
possession, I have read one, stating that the 
bearer had no concern in the late wicked rebel- 
lion." On the information of one who knew 
William Burnes soon after he arrived in the 
county of Ayr, it may be mentioned, that a 
report did prevail, that he bad taken tbe field 
with the young chevalier ; a report which the 
certificate mentioned by bis son was, perhaps, 
intended to counteract. Strangers from the 
North, settling in the low country of Scotland, 
were in those days liable to suspicions of hav- 



ig been, in the familiar phrase of the country, 
' Out in the forty-five," (17i5,) especially 
vhen they bad any stateliness or reserve about 
chem, as was the case with William Bumes. 
It may easily be conceived, that our poet would 
cherish the belief of his father's having been 
engaged in the daring enterprise of Prince 
Charles Edward. The generous attachment, 
the heroic valour, and the final misfortunes of 
the adherents of the house of Stuart, touched 
with sympathy his youthful and ardent mind, and 
influenced his original political opinions.* The 
father of our poet is described by one who 
knew him towards the latter end oi his life, as 
above the common stature, thin, and bent with 
labour. Hit countenance was serious and ex- 
pressive, and the scanty locks on his head were 
grey. He was of a religious turn of mind, and as 
is usual among the Scottish peasantry, agood deal 
conversant in speculative theology. There is 
in Gilbert's hands a little manual of religious 
belief, in the form of a dialogue between a fa- 
ther and his son, composed by him for the use 
of his children, in which the benevolence of 
his heart seems to have led him to soften the 
'rigid Calvinism of the Scottish church, into 
something approaching to Arminianism. He 
was a devout man, and in the practice of call- 
ing his family together to join in prayer. It is 
known that the following exquisite picture, in 
the Cotter'* Saturday Night, represents Wil- 
liam Burnes and his family at their evening 

The cheerful supper done, with serious face. 
They, round the ingle, •^ form a circle vride ; 

The sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace, 
The big Ao//- Bible, once his father's pride : 

His bonnet revYently Is laid aside, 
His lyart haffets ^ wearing thin and bare ; 

* Tliere is another observation of Gilbert Burns on 
his brother's narrative, in which some persona will be 
interested. It refers to page 12, where the poet epeaks 
of his youthful friends. " My brother," says Gilbert 
Bums, ** seems to set off his early companions in too 
conyeqaentiui a manner, llie principal acquaintance 
we bad in Ayr, while boy?, were tour sons of Mr 
Andrew M'CuIloch, a distant relation of my mother's, 
who kept a toa-shop, and had made a little money in 
the contraband trade, very common at tltat time. He 
died while the boys *vere youur, and my father was 
nominatfd one ot the tutors. The two eldest were 
bred shop-keepers, the third a surgeon, and the young- 
est, the only surviving one, was bred in a counting, 
house In Glnsgow, where he is now a respectable mer. 
chant. I believe all these boys went to the West Indies. 
Then there were two sons of Dr Malc^tlm, whom I 
have mentioned hi my letter to Mrs Dunlop. The 
eldest, a very worthy youn^ mun, went to the East 
Indies, where he had a commisbion in the army ; he is 
the person, whose heart my brother says the Munny 
Begum fcenea eould not corrupt- The other, by the 
interest of Lady Wallace, got an enaigncy in a regiment 
raised by the duke of Hamilton, during the American 
war. I believe neither of them arc now (1797) alive. 
We also knew the present Dr Paters >n of Ayr, and a 
younger brotlier of his now in Jamaica, who were 
much younger than us. I had almo!*t forgot to mention 
Dr Charles of Ayr, who was a little older than my 
Anither, and with whom he had a longer and closer 
inUmacy than with any of the others, which did not, 
however, continue in afti-r life." 

f Fire. % Grey temples. 

Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide, 
He wales* a portion with judicious care ; 
And " Let us w(yrship GodT he say with solemn 

They chant their artless notes in simple guise i 
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest 
aim : 
Perhaps Dundee's f ^vild warbling measures 
Or plaintive Martyrs \ worthy of the name; 
Or noDle Elgin\ beets f the heavenly flame. 

The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays ; 
Compared with these, Italian trills are tame; 
The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise ; 
No luiison have they with our Creator's praise. 

The priest- like father reads the sacred page,§ 

How Abram was the friend of God on high ; 
Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage 

With Amalek's ungracious progeny ; 
Or how the royal bard did croaning lie, 

Beneatli the stroke of Heaven's avenging 
Or, JoVs pathetic plaint, and wailing cry ; 

Or, rapt Isai.iirs wild seraphic fire ; 
Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre. 

Perhaps the Christian volume Is the theme, 

How guiltless blood forguiltv man was shed; 
How he who bore in heaven the second name. 

Had not on earth whereon to luy his head ; 
How his first followers and servants sped ; 

The precepts sage they wrote to many a Uuid : 
How he who lone in Patmos banished. 

Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand : 
And heard great Babylon's doom pronounced, 
by Heaven's command ! 

Then kneeling down to Heaven's eternal King, 

The saint, the father, and the husband prays ; 
Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing, 

1 hat thus they all shall meet in future days ; 
There ever bask in uncreated ravs. 

No more to sigh, or shed the\)itter tear, 
Together hymning their Creator's praise, 

In such society, yet still more dear ; 
While circling time moves round in an eternal 

Then homeward all take off their several way ; 

The youngling cottagers retire to rest ; 
The parent pair their secret homage pay. 

And offer up to Heaven the warm request, 
That he who stills the raven's clam'rous nest, 

And decks the lily fair in flowery pride. 
Would in the way his wisdom sees the best. 

For them and for their little ones provide ; 
But chiefly in their hearts with 
preside ! 

grace divine 

* Chooses. 

f Names of tunes in Scottish psalmody. The tunes 
mentioned in this poem are the three which were used 
by William Barnes, who had no greater variety. 

X Adds fuel to. 

\ The course of family devotion among the Scots is, 
first to ving a psalm, then to read a portion of scripture, 
and lastly to kneel aown in prayer. 



Of a family so interesting as tbat which 
inhabited the cottage of William Burnes, and 
particularly of the father of the family, the 
reader will perhaps be willing to listen to some 
farther account. What follows is given by 
one already mentioned with so much honour, 
in the narrative of Gilbert Bums, Mr Mur- 
doch, the preceptor of our poet, who, in a let- 
ter to Joseph Cooper Walker, Esq. of Dublin, 
author of the Hutorical Memoir of the Italian 
Tragedy, lately published, thus expresses 


*• I was lately favoured with a letter from our 
worthy friend, the Rev. Wm. Adair, in which 
he requested me to communicate to you what- 
ever particulars I could recollect concerning 
Robert Burns, the Ayrshire poet. My busi- 
ness being at present multifarious and harass- 
ing, my attention is consequently so much di- 
vided, and I am so little in the habit of express- 
ing my thoughts on paper, that at this distance 
of time I can give but a very imperfect sketch 
of the early part of the life of that extraordinary 
genius with which alone I am acquainted. 

" William Bunies, the father of the poet, 
was bom in the shire of Klincardine, and bred 
a gardener. He had been settled in Ayrshire 
ten or twelve years before I knew him, and 
had been in the service of Mr Crawford of 
Doonside. He was afterwards employed as a 
gardener and overseer by Provost Ferguson of 
Doonholm, in the parish of Alloway, which is 
now united with that of Ayr. In this parish, 
on the road side, a Scotch mile and a half from 
the town of Ayr, and half a mile from the 
bridge of Doon, William Burnes took a piece 
of land consisting of about seven acres, part of 
which he laid out in garden ground, and part 
of which he kept to graze a cow, &c. still con- 
tinuing in the employ of Provost Ferguson. 
Upon this little farm was erected an humble 
dwelling, of which William Bumes was the 
architect. It was, with the exception of a little 
straw, literally a tabernacle of clay. In this 
mean cottage, of which I myself was at times 
an inhabitant, I really believe, there dwelt a 
larger portion of content than in any palace in 
Europe. The Cotter's Saturday Night, will 
give some idea of the temper and manners that 
prevailed there. 

** In 1765, about the middle of March, Mr 
W. Bumes came to Ayr, and sent to the 
school where I was improving in writing under 
my good friend Mr Robison, ^desiring that I 
would come and speak to him at a certain inn, 
and bring my writing book with me. This 
was immediately complied with. Having ex- 
amined my writing, he was pleased with it— 
(you will readily allow he was not difficult), 
and told me that he had received very satisfac- 
tory information of Mr Tennant, the master of 
the English school, concerning my improve^ 
ment in English, and in his method of teach- 
ing. In the month of May following, I was 

engaged by Mr Bumes, and four of hit neigh- 
bours to teach, and accordingly began to teach 
the little school at AUoway, which was situ- 
ated a few yards from the argillaceous fabric 
above mentioned. My five employers under* 
took to board me by turns, and to make up a 
certain salary, at the end of the year, provided 
my quarterly payments from the different pu- 
pils did not amount to that sum. 

** My pupil, Robert Bums, was then be- 
tween six and seven years of age ; his precep- 
tor altout eighteen. Robert and his younger 
brother Gilbert, had been grounded a little in 
English before they were put under my care. 
They both made a rapid progress in reading, 
and a tolerable progress in writing. In read- 
ing, dividing words into syllables by mle, spell- 
ing without book, parsing sentences, &c. Ro * 
bert and Gilbert were generally at the upper 
end of the class, even when ranged with boys 
by far their seniors. The books most com- 
monly used in the schools were the SneiHng 
Book, the New Tegiament, the Bibk, MaaotCe 
Oaliection of Prose and Verne, and Fisher's 
English Grammar. They committed to me- 
mory the hymns, and other poems of tbat col- 
lection, with uncommon facility. This facility 
was partly owing to the metnod pursued bv 
their father and me in instracting them, which 
was, to make them thoroughly acquainted with 
the meaning of every word in each sentence 
tbat was to be committed to memory* By the 
bye, this may be easier done, and at an earlier 
period, than is generally thought. As soon as 
they were capable of it, I taught them to turn 
verse into its natural prose order ; sometimes 
to substitute synonymous expressions for poeti- 
cal words, and to supply all the ellipses. 
These, you know, are the means of knowing 
that the pupil understands his author. Thest 
are excellent helps to the arrangement of words 
in sentences, as well as to a variety of expres- 

<* Gilbert always appeared to me to possess a 
more lively imagination, and to be more of the 
wit, than Robert. I attempted to teach them 
a little church-music. Here they were left far 
behind by all the rest of the school. Robert's 
ear, in particular, was remarkably dull, and his 
voice untunable. It was long before I could 
get them to distinguish one tune from another. 
Robert's countenance was generally grave, and 
expressive of a serious, contemplative, and 
thoughtful mind. Gilbert's face said. Mirth, 
with thee I mean to lite; and certainly, if any 
person who knew the two boys, had been asked 
which of them was the most likely to court the 
muses, he would surely never have guessed that 
Robert had a propensity of tbat kind. 

** In the year 1767, Mr Bumes quitted his 
mud edifice, and took possession of a farm 
(Mount Oliphant) of his own improving, while 
in the service of Provost Ferguson. This farm 
being at a considerable distance from the school, 
the boys could not attend regularly ; and some 
changes had taken place among the other sup- 



porters of tbe school, I left it, having continued 
to conduct it for nearly two years and a half. 

«* In the year 1772, I was appointed (being 
one of five candidates who were examined) to 
teach the English school at Ayr ; and in 1773, 
Robert Bums came to board and lodge with 
me, for the purpose of revising English gram- 
mar, &c. that be might be better qualified to 
instruct his brothers and sisters at home. He 
was now with me day and night, in school, at 
all meals, and in all my walks. At the end of 
one week, I told him, that, as he was now 
pretty much master of the parts of speech, &c. 
I should like to teach him something of French 
pronunciation, that when he should meet with the 
name of a French town, ship, officer, or the like, 
in the newspapers, he might be able to pronounce 
it something like a French word. Robert was 
glad to hear this proposal, and immediately we 
attacked the French with great courage. 

** Now there was little else to be heard but 
the declension of nouns, the conjugation of 
verbs, &c. When walking together, and even 
at meals, I was constantly telling him the names 
of different objects, as they presented them- 
selves, in French ; so that he was hourly laying 
in a stock of words, and sometimes little 

f»hrases. In short, he took such pleasure in 
earning, and I in teaching, that it was difficult 
to say which of the two was most zealous in 
the business ; and about the end of the second 
week of our study of the French, we began to 
read a little of the Adventures of Teletnachus, in 
Feneion's own words. 

»« But now the plains of Mount Oliphant be- 
gan to whiten, and Robert was summoned to 
relinquish the pleasing scenes that surrounded 
the grotto of Calypso, and, armed with a sickle, 
to seek glory by signalizing himself in the fields 
of Ceres — and so he did ; for although but 
about fifteen, I was told that he performed the 
work of a man. 

Thus was 1 deprived of my very apt pupil, 
and consequently agreeable companion, at the 
end of three weeks, one of which was spent 
entirely in the study of English, and the other 
two chiefly in that of French. I did not, how- 
ever, lose sight of him ; but was a frequent 
visitant at his father's house, when I had my 
half-holiday, and very often went accompanied 
with one or two persons more intelligent than 
myself, that good William Burnes might enjoy 

a mental feast Then the hibouring oar was 

shifted to some other hand. The father and 
the son sat down with us, when we enjoyed a 
conversation, wherein solid reasoning, sensible 
remark, and a moderate seasoning of jocularity, 
were so nicely blended as to render it palata. 
ble to all parties. Robert had a hundred ques- 
tions to ask me about the French, &c. ; and 
the father, who had always rational informa- 
tion in view, had still some question to pro- 
pose to my more learned friends, upon moral 
or natural philosophy, or some such interesting 
subject. Mrs Burnes too was of the party as 
much a? possible ; 

* But still the house affairs would draw her thence^ 
Which ever as she could with haste despatch, 
She'd come again, and, with a greedy ear. 
Devour up tlieir discourse' 

and particularly that of her husband. At all 
times, and in all companies, she listened to 
him with a more marked attention than to any 
body else. When under the necessity of be- 
ing absent while he was speaking, she seemed 
to regret, as a real loss, that she had missed 
what the good- man had said. This worthy 
woman, Agnes Brown, had the most thorough 
esteem for her husband of any woman I ever 
knew. J can by no means wonder that she 
highly esteemed him ; for I myself have 
always considered William Barnes as by far 
the best of the human race that ever J had the 
pleasure of being acquainted with — and many 
a worthy character I have known. I can 
cheerfully join with Robert in the last line of 
his epitaph (borrowed from Goldsmith), 

* And ev*n his failings leaned to virtue's side.* 

** He was an excellent husband, if I may 
judge from his assiduous attention to the ease 
and comfort of his worthy partner, and from 
her affectionate behaviour to him, as well as 
her unwearied attention to the duties of a 

" He was a tender and affectionate father ; 
he took pleasure in leading his children in the 
path of virtue ; not in driving them, as some 
parents do, to the performance of duties to 
which they themselves are averse. He took 
care to find fault but very seldom ; and there- 
fore, when he did rebuke, he was listened to 
with a kind of reverential awe. A look of 
disapprobation was felt ; a reproof was severely 
so ; and a stripe with the /atr«, even on the 
skirt of the coat, gave heait^felt pain, produced 
a loud lamentation, and brought forth a flood 
of tears. 

" He had the art of gaining the esteem and 
good-will of those that were labourers under 
him. I think I never saw him angry but 
twice : the one time it was with the foreman 
of the band, for not reaping the field as he was 
desired ; and the other time, it was with an 
old man, for using smutty inuendoes and double 
entendres. Were every foul-mouthed old man 
to receive a seasonable check in this way, it 
would be to the advantage of the rising gener- 
ation. As he was at no time overbearing to 
inferiors, he was equally incapable of that 
passive, pitiful, paltry spirit, that induces some 
people to keep bcoing and booing in tbe pre- 
sence of a great man. He always treated 
superiors with a becoming respect; but he 
never gave the smallest encouragement to 
aristocratical arrogance. But I must not pre- 
tend to give you a description of all the manly 
qualities, the rational and Christian virtues of 
the venerable William Burnes. Time would 
fail me. I shall only add, that he carefully 



pmctised every known duty, and avoided every 
tbmg that was crinninal; or, in the apostle's 
words, Herein did he exercise himaelfi in tivina 
a life void of offence towards God and towards 
men, O for a world of men of such disposi- 
tions ! We should then have no wars. I 
have often wished, for the good of mankind, 
that it were as customary to honour and per- 
petuate the memory of those who excel in 
moral rectitude, as it is to extol what are called 
heroic actions : then would the mausoleum of 
the friend of my youth overtop and surpass 
most of the monuments I see in Westminster 

" Although I cannot do justice to the char- 
acter of this worthy man, yet you will perceive, 
from these few particulars, what kind of person 
had the principal hand in the education of our 
poet. He spoke the English language with 
more proprietor (both with respect to diction 
and pronunciation), than any man I ever knew 
with no greater advantages. This had a very 
good effect on the boys, who began to talk, 
and reason like men, much sooner than their 
neighbours. I do not recollect any of their 
cotemporaries, at my little seminary, who 
afterwards made any great figure as Uterary 
characters, except Dr Tennant. who was chap, 
lain to Colonel Fullarton*s regiment, and who 
is now in the East Indies. He is a man of 
genius and learning ; yet affable, and free from 

" Mr Bumes, in a short time, found that he 
had overrated Mount Oliphant, and that he 

could not rear his numerous family upon it 

After being there some years, he removed to 
Lochlea, in the parish of Tarbolton, where, I 
believe, Robert wrote most of his poems. 

" But here, sir, you will permit me to pause. 
I can tell vou but little more relative to our 
poet I shall, however, in my next, send you 
a copy of one of his letters to me, about the 
year 1783.* I received one since, but it is 
mislaid. Please remember me, in the best 
manner, to my worthy friend Mr Adair, when 
you see him or write to him. 

" Hart Street, Bloomsbury Square, 
JLondon, Feb. 22, 1799. •' 

As the narrative of Gilbert Burns was 
written at a time when he was ignorant of the 
existence of the preceding narrative of his 
brother, so this letter of Mr Murdoch was 
written without his having any knowle^ that 
either of his pupils had been employed on the 
same subject. The three relations serve, 
therefore, not merely to illustrate, but to 
authenticate each other. Though the infor- 
mation they convey might have been presented 
within a shorter compass, by reducing the 
whole into one unbroken narrative, it is scarcely 
to be doubted, that the intelligent reader will 
be far more gratified by a sight of these origi- 
nal documents themselves. 

* Sfe p. 3. 

Under the humble roof of bis parents, it ap- 
pears indeed that our poet bad great advan- 
tages ; but his opportunities of information at 
school were more limited as to time than they 
usually are among his countr^en, in his con- 
dition of life ; and the acquisitions- which he 
made, and the poetical talent which he exerted, 
under the pressure of early and bcessant toil, 
and of inferior, and perhaps scanhr nutriment, 
testify at once the extraordinary rorce and ac- 
tivity of his mind. In his frame of body he 
rose nearly to five feet ten inches, and assumed 
the proportions that indicate agility as well as 
strength. In the various labours of the farm 
he excelled all his competitors. Gilbert Bun:s 
declares, that, in mowing, the exercise that 
tries all the muscles most severely, Robert 
was the only man that, at the end of a sum- 
mer's day, he was ever obliged to acknowledge 
as his master. But though our poet gave the 

Sowers of his body to the labours of the farm, 
e refused to bestow on them his thoughts or 
his cares. While the plotu^hare under his 
guidance passed through the sward, or the 
grass fell under the sweep of his scythe, he 
was humming the songs of his country, musing 
on the deeds of ancient valour, or rapt in the 
illusions of Fancy, as her enchantments rose 
on his view. Happily the Sunday is yet a 
sabbath, on which man and beast rest from 
their labours. On this day, therefore. Bums 
could indulge in a freer intercourse with the 
charms of nature. It was his delight to wan. 
der alone on the banks of the Ayr, whose 
stream is now immortal, and to listen to the 
song of the blackbird at the close of the sum- 
mer's day. But still greater was his pleasure, 
as he hiniself informs us, in walking on the 
sheltered side of a wood, in adoudy winter day, 
and hearing the storm rave among the trees; and 
more elevated still his delight, to ascend some 
eminence during the agitations of nature, to 
stride along its summit, while the lightning 
flashed around him, and amidst the howUngs 
of the tempest, to apostrophize the spirit of 
the storm. Such situations he declares most 
favourable to devotion — « Rapt in enthusiasm, 
I seem to ascend towards Him who waihs on 
the wings of the wind r If other proofs were 
wanting of the character of his genius, this 
might determine it The heart of die poet 
is peculiarly awake to every impression of 
beauty and sublimity} but with the higher 
order of poets, the beautiful is less attractive 
than the sublime. 

The gaiety of many of Bums^s writings, 
and the lively, and even cheerful colouring with 
which he has pourtrayed his own character, 
may lead some persons to suppose, that the 
melancholy which hung over him towards the 
end of his days, was not an original part of his 
constitution. It is not to be doubted, indeed, 
that this melancholy acquired a darker 
the progress of his life ; but, independent 3 
his own and of his brother's testimony, evidence 
is to be found among his papers, that he wns 



{subject very early to those depressions of mind, 
which are perhaps not wholly separable from 
the sensibility of genius, but which in him 
rose to an uncommon degree. The foUow^ing 
letter, addressed to his father, will serve as a 
proof of this observation. It was written at 
the time when he was learning the business of 
a flax dresser, and is dated 

" HONOURED SIR, IrvinCy Dec. 27, 1781. 

" I HAVE purposely delayed writing, in the 
hope that I should have the pleasure of seeing 
you on New-year's day ; but work comes so 
hard upon us, that I do not choose to be ab- 
sent on that account, as well as for some other 
little reasons, which J shall tell you at meeting. 
My health is nearly the same as when you were 
here, only my sleep is a little sounder, and, 
on the whole, I am rather better than other- 
wise, though I mend' by very slow degrees. 
The weakness of my nerves has so debilitated 
my miiid, that I dare neither review past 
wants, nor look forward into futurity ; for the 
least anxiety or perturbation in my breast, pro- 
duces most unhappy effects on my whole frame. 
Sometimes, indeed, when for an hour or two 
my spirits are a little lightened, I glimmer a 
little into futurity ; but my principal, and in- 
deed my only pleasurable employment, is look- 
ing backwards and forwards in a moral and re- 
ligious way. I am quite transported at the 
thought, that ere long, perhaps very soon, I 
shall bid an eternal adieu to all the pains and 
uneasinesses, and disquietudes of this weary 
life ; for I assure you I am heartily tired of 
it ; and, if I do not very much deceive myself, 
I could contentedly and gladly resign it. 

* The Bonl, uneasy, and confined at h«ime. 
Rests and expHtiaies in a life to come.' 

•* It is for this reason I am more pleased 
with the 15th, ) 6th, and 17th verses of the 7th 
chapter of Revelations, than with any ten 
times as many verses in the whole Bible, and 
would not exchange the noble enthusiasm with 
which they inspire me for all that this world 
has to offer.* As for this world, I despair 
of ever making a figure in it. I am not 
formed for the bustle of the busy, nor the 
flutter of the gay. I shall never again be 
capable of entering into such scenes. Indeed 
I am altogether unconcerned at the thoughts of 
this life. I foresee that poverty and obscurity 
probably a\%'ait me, and I am in some measure 

• The verges of Scripture here alluded to, are as 
follovi'8 : 

15. •* Therefore are they before the throne of God, 
and serve him day and night in his teroplf ; and he that 
Bitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 

16. •• They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any 
more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any 

17. *• For the I.amb that is in the midat of the throne 
shall feed them, and (.hall lead them unto living foun- 
tains of waters ; nnd God shall wipe away afi tears 
from their eyi's." 

prepared, and daily preparing to meet them. 
I have but just time and paper to return you 
my grateful thanks for the lessons of virtue 
and piety you have given me, which were too 
much neglected at the time of giving them, 
but which, I hope, have been remembered ere 
it is yet too late. Present my dutiful respects to 
my mother, and my compUments to Mr and 
Mrs Muir; and, with wishing you a merry 
New-year's-day, I shall conclude. 
** I am, honoured sir, 
" Your dutiful son, 


** P. S. My meal is nearly out ; but I am 
going to borrow, till I get more. 

This letter written several years before the 
publication of his poems, when his name was 
as obscure as his condition was humble, dis- 
plays the philosophic melancholy which so 
generally forms the poetical temperament, and 
that buoyant and ambitious spirit which indi- 
cates a mind conscious of its strength. At 
Irvine, Burns at this time possessed a single 
room for his lodgings, rented perhaps at the rate 
of a shilling a week. He passed his days in 
constant labour as a flax dresser, and his food 
consisted chiefly of oatmeal sent to him from 
his father's family. The store of this humble, 
though wholesome nutriment, it appears was 
nearly exhausted, and he was about to borrow 
till he should obtain a supply. Yet even in 
this situation, his active imagination had form* 
ed to itself pictures of eminence and distinc- 
tion. His despair of making a figure in the 
world, shows how ardently he wished for ho- 
nourable fame ; and his contempt of life, found- 
ed on this despair, is the genuine expression 
of a youthful generous mind. In such a state 
of reflection, and of suffering, the imagination 
of Bums naturally passed the dark boundaries 
of our earthly horizon, and rested on those 
beautiful representations of a better world, 
where there is neither thirst, nor hunger, nor 
sorrow, and where happiness shall be in pro- 
portion to the capacity of happiness. 

Such a disposition is far from being at vari- 
ance with social enjoyments. Those who have 
studied the affinities of mind, know that a 
melancholy of this description, after a while, 
oeeks relief in the endearments of society, and 
that it has no distant connection with the flow 
of cheerfulness, or even the extravagance of 
mirth. It was a few days after the writing of 
this letter that our poet, *' in giving a welcoming 
carousal to the new year, with his gay compa- 
nions," suffered his flax to catch fire, and his 
shop to be consumed to ashes. 

The enei^ of Bunis* mind whs not exhaust- 
ed by his dailv labours, the eflTusions of bis 
muse, his social pleasures, or his solitary medi- 
tations. Some time previous to bis engage, 
ment as a flax-dresser, having heard that a de- 
bating club had been established in Ayr, he 
resolved to try how such a meeting would sue-* 



ceed in the village of TarboUon. About tbe 
end of the ?ear 1780, our poet, his brother, 
and five other young peasants of tbe neigh- 
bourhood, formed themselves into a society of 
this sort, the declared objects of which were 
to relax themselves after toil, to promote so- 
ciality and friendship, and to improve the 
mind. The laws and regulations were furnish- 
ed by Bums. The members were to meet 
after the labours of the day were over, once 
a-week, in a small publichouse in the village ; 
where each should offer his opinion on a given 
question or subject, supporting it by such argu. 
ments as he thought proper. The debate was 
to be conducted with order and decjrum ; and 
after it was finished, the members were to choose 
a subject fur discussion at the ensuing meeting. 
The sum expended by each, was not to exceed 
three pence ; and, with the humble potation 
that this could procure, they were to toast 
their mistresses, and to cultivate friendship 
with each other. This society continued its 
meetings regularly for some time ; and in the 
autumn of 1782, wishing to preserve some ac- 
counts of their proceedings, they purchased a 
book, into which their laws and regulations 
were copied, with a preamble, containing a short 
history of their transactions down to that period. 
This curious document, which is evidently the 
work of our poet, has been discovered, and it 
deserves a place in his memoirs. 

*' History of the RisCy Proceedings, and Regu- 
lations of the Bachelor*s Club, 

* Of birth or blood we do not boast. 
Nor gentry does our club afford ; 
But ploughmen and mechanics we 
In Nature's simple dress record.* 

** As the great end of human society is to 
become wiser and better, this ought therefore 
to be the principal view of every man in every 
station of^ life. But as experience has taught 
us, that such studies as inform the head and 
mend the heart, when long continued, are apt 
to exhaust the faculties of the mind, it has 
been found proper to relieve and unbend the 
mind by some employment or another, that 
may be agreeable enough to keep its powers 
m exercise, but at the same time not so seri- 
ous as to exhaust them. But superadded to 
this, by far the greater part of mankind are 
under the necessity of earning the sustenance of 
human life by the labour of their bodies, where- 
by, not only the faculties of the mind, but the 
nerves and sinews of the body, are so fatigued, 
that it is absolutely necessary to have recourse 
to some amusement or diversion, to relieve the 
wearied man worn down with the necessary 
labours of life. 

** As the best of things, however, have been 

perverted to the worst of purposes, so, imder 

the pretence of amusement and diversion, men 

have plunged into all the madness of riot and 

dissipation ; and instead of attending to the 

grand design of human life, they have begun 
with extravagance and folly, and ended with 
guilt and wretchedness. Impressed with these 
considerations, we, the following lads in the 
parish of Tarbolton, vis. Hugh Reid, Robert 
Bums, Gilbert Bums, Alexander Brown, 
Walter Mitchel, Thomas Wright, and Wil- 
liam M'Oavin, resolved, for our mutual enter • 
tainment, to unite ourselves into a club, or 
society, under such rules and regulations, that 
while we should foiget our cares and labours 
in mirth and diversion, we might not transgress 
the bounds of innocence and decorum : and 
after agreeing on these, and some other regu- 
lations, we held our first meeting at Tarbolton, 
in the house of John Richard, upon the even* 
ing of the Uth of November, 1780, commonly 
called Hallowe'en, and after choosing Robert 
Bums president for the night, we proceeded 
to debate on this question, — * Suppose a young 
man, bred a fanner, but without any fortune, 
has it in his power to marry either of two wo- 
men, the one a girl of Urge fortune, but nei- 
ther handsome in person, nor agreeable in 
conversation, but who can manage the house- 
hold affairs of a farm well enough ; the other 
of them a girl every way agreeable in person, 
conversation, and behaviour, but without any 
fortune: which of them shall he choose?* 
Finding ourselves very happy in our society, 
we resolved to continue to meet once a month 
in the same house, in the way and manner 
proposed, and shortly thereatter we chose 
Robert Ritchie for another member. In 
May, 1781, we brought in David Sillar,* and 
in June, Adam Jamaison as members. About 
the beginning of the year 1782, we admitted 
Matthew Patterson, and John Orr, and in 
June following we chose James Patterson as 
a proper brother for such a society. The club 
being thus increased, we resolved to meet at 
Tarbolton on the race niffht, the July follow- 
ing, and have a dance in honour of our society. 
Accordingly we did meet, each one with a 
partner, and spent the evening in such iimo- 
cence and merriment, such cheerfulness and 
good humour, that every brother will long 
remember it with pleasure and delight** To 
this preamble are subjoined the rules and re- 

* The person to whom Bums addressed his Epistle to 
Davie, a brother poet, 

f Rule* and BegtUation* to be observed in the Bache- 
lor's Club. 

Ist The club shall meet at Tarbolton erery fourth 
Monday night, when a question on any sot^ect shall l>e 
proposed, disputed points of religion only excepted, in 
tbe manner hereafter directed : which quesUon is to be 
debated in the dab, each member taking whaterer side 
he thinlcs proper. 

8d. When the clab is met, tike president, or, be failing, 
some one of the members, till he come, shall take his 
seat; then the other members shaU seat themselTef; 
those who are fur one side of the quesUon, on the pre- 
sidents right hand } and those who are for the other 
side,, on his left ; which of them shall have the right 
hand is to be determined by the president IIm* presi. 
dent and foor of the members being present shall ha'- ' 



The philosophical mind will dwell with 
interest and pleasure on an institution that 
combined so skilfully the means of instruction 
and of happiness ; and if grandeur look down 
with a smile on these simple annals, let us 

power to transact any ordinary part of the •ociety*8 

3<L I'he dub met and seated, the president shall read 
the question out of the club's boolc of records, (which 
boolc is always to be Icept by the president] then the 
tu'o tnemhers nearest the president shall oast lots who 
of them shall speak first, and accordii>g as the lot shall 
determine, the member nearest the president on that 
side shall deliver his opinion, and the member nearest 
on the other side shall reply to him ; then the second 
member of the side that spoke first; then the second 
member of the side that spoke second, and so on to the 
end of the company ; but if there be fewer raerobera on 
the one side than on the other, when all the members 
of the least side have spoken according to tlieir places, 
any of them, as they please among themselves, may 
reply to the remaining members of the oppoatte side ; 
when both sides have spoken, the president ahall gire 
his opinion, after which they may go over it a second 
or more times, and so continue the question. 

4th. The club shall then proceed to the choice of a 
question for the subject of next night's mfeting The 
president shall first propose one, and any other member 
who chooses may propose more questions ; and what- 
ever one of them is most agreeable to the rot^ority of 
the members, shall be the subject of debate next club- 

5th. "Die dob shall, lastly, elect a new president for 
the next meeting ; the president shall first name one, 
then any of the club may name another, and whoever 
of tliem has the majority of votes shall be duly elected ; 
allowing the president the first vote, and the casting 
vote upon a par, but none other. Then after a general 
toast to mistresses of the club, they shall dismiss. 

6th. There shall be no private conversation carried 
on during the time of debate, nor shall any member in. 
terrupt another while he is speaking, under the penalty 
of a reprimand from the president, for the first fsul^ 
doubling lib share of the reckoning for the second, tre- 
oling it for the third, and so on in proportion for every 
other fault ; provided always, however, that anv mem. 
ber may speak at any time after leave a!>ked ana given 
by the president All swearing and profane language, 
and particular I v all obscene and indecent con verbal ion, 
is strictly prohibited, under the same penalty as afore- 
said in the first clause of this article. 

7th. No member, on any pretence whatever, shall 
mention any of the club's affairs to any other perhon but 
a brother member, under the pain of*^ being excluded ; 
and particularly, if any member shall reveal any of the 
speeches or aftSurs of the club, with a view to ridicule 
or laugh at any of the rest of the members, he shall be 
for ever excommunicated from the society; and the 
rest of the members are desired, as much as possible, to 
avoid, and have no communication with him as a friend 
or comrade. 

8th. Every member shall attend at the meetings, 
without he can give a proper excuse for not attending i 
and it is desired that every one who cannot attend will 
send his excuse with some other member ; and he who 
shall be abs«'nt three meetings without sending such 
excuse, shall be summoned to the dulMiight, when, if 
he fail to appear, or send ao excuse, he shall be ex. 

0th. The ciub snail not consist of more than sixteen 
members, all bachelors, behmging to the parish of Tar. 
bolton ; except a brother member marry, and in that 
case he may* be continued, if the majority of the club 
think proper. No person shall be a«nitted a member 
of thid society, without the unanimous consent of the 
club ; and any member may withdraw from the club 
altogether, by giving notice to the president in writ- 
ing of his departure. 

lOth Every man proper for a member of this sodety, 
muHt have a frank, honest, open heart ; above any thing 
dirty or mean, and must be a professed lover of one or 
more of the female sex. No haughty, self.conceited 
person, who looks upon himself as superior to the rest 
of the club, and espedally no mean-spirited, worldly 
mortal, whose only will is to heap up money, shall upon 
any pretence whatever be admitted. In short, the pro- 

trust that it will be a smile of benevolence and 
approbation. It is with regret that the sequel 
of the history of the Bachelor's Club of Tar- 
bolton must be told. It survived several 
years after our pofct removed from Ayrshire, 
but no longer sustained by his talents, of 
cemented by his social affections, its meetings 
lost much of their attraction ; and at length, 
in an evil hour, dissension arising amont^st its 
members, the institution was given up, and the 
records committed to the flames. Happily the 
preamble and the regulations were spared; 
and, as matter of instruction and of example^ 
they are transmitted to posterity. 

After the family of our bard removed from 
Tarbolton to the neighbourhood of Mauchline, 
he and his brother were requested to assist in 
forming a similar institution there. The 
regulations of the club at Mauchline were 
nearly the same as those of the club at Tar. 
bolton ; but one laudable alteration was made. 
The fines for non-attendance had at Tarbolton 
been spent in enlarging their scanty potations : 
at Mauchline it was fixed, that the money so 
arising, should be set apart for the purchase of 
books; and the first work procured in this 
manner was the Mirror, the separate numbers 
of which were at that time recently collected 
and published in volumes. After it followed 
a number of other works, chiefly of the same 
nature, and among these the Lounger, The 
society of Mauchline still subsists, and was in 
the list of subscribers to the first edition of 
the works of its celebrated associate. 

The members of these two societies were 
originally all young men from the country, and 
chiefly sons of farmers ; a description of per- 
sons m the opinion of our poet, more agreeable 
in their manners, more virtuous in their conduct, 
and more susceptible of improvement, than the 
self-sufficient mechanic of country towns. With 
deference to the Conversation-society of Mauch« 
line, it may be doubted, whether the books 
which they purchased were of a kind best adap- 
ted to promote the interest and happiness of 
persons in this situation of life. The Mirror 
and the Lounger, though works of great merit, 
may be said, on a general view of their contents, 
to be less calculated to increase the knowledge, 
than to refine the taste of those who read them ; 
and to this last object their morality itself, 
which is however always perfectly pure, may be 
considered as subordinate. As works of taste, 
they deserve great praise. They are, indeed, 
refined to a high degree of delicacy ; and to 
this circumstance it is perhaps owing, that they 
exhibit little or nothing of the peculiar manners 
of the age or country in which they were pro- 
duced. But delicacy of taste, though the 
source of many pleasures, is not without some 
disadvantages ; and to render it desirable, the 

per person for this sodety, is a cheerful honest-hearted 
lad, who. if he has a friend that is true, and a roistresa 
that is kuid, and as much wealth as genteellv to make 
both ends meet— b just as happy as this world can mak« 

It • • 


and they were frequented, as may be imagined, 
by our poet in bis solitary walks. Here the 
muse often visited bim. In one of tbese wan. 
derings, be met among the woods a celebrated 
Beauty of the west of Scotland ; a lady, of 
whom it is said, that the charms of her person 
correspond with the character of her mind. 
This incident gave rise, as might be expected, 
to a poem, of which an account will be found 
in the following letter, in which he enclosed it 
to the object of his inspiration : 

To Miss- 

«« Madam, Mossgiel, 18th Nov. 1786. 

'* Poets are such outre beings, so much the 
children of wayward fancv and capricious 
whim, that I believe the world generally allows 
them a larger latitude in the laws of propriety, 
than the sober sons of judgment and prudence. 
I mention this as an apology for the liberties 
that a nameless stranger has taken with you 
in the enclosed poem, which he begs leave to 
present you with. Whether it has poetical 
merit any way worthy of the theme, I am not 
the proper judge ; but it is the best my abili- 
ties can produce; and what to a good heart 
will perhaps be a superior grace, it is equally 
sincere as fervent. 

" The scenery was nearly taken from real 
life, though I dare say, madam, you do not 
recollect it, as I believe you scarcely noticed 
the poetic reveur as he wandered bv you. I 
bad roved out as chance directed in the favour- 
ite haunts of my muse, on the banks of the 
Ayr, to view nature in all the gaiety of the 
vernal year. The evening sun was flaming 
over the distant western hills ; not a breath 
stirred the crimson opening blossom, or the 
verdant spreading leat. It was a golden mo- 
ment for a poetic heart. I listened to the fea- 
thered warblers, pouring their harmony on every 
hand, with a congenial kindred regard, and 
frequently turned out of my path, lest I should 
disturb their little songs, or frighten them to 
another station. Surely, said I to myself, he 
must be a wretch indeed, who, regardless of 
your harmonious endeavour to please bim, can 
eye your elusive flights to discover your secret 
recesses, and to rob you of all the property 
nature g^ves you, your dearest comforts, your 
helpless nestlings. Even the hoary hawthorn- 
twig that shot across the way, what heart at 
such a time but must have been interested in 
its welfare, and wished it preserved from the 
rudely browsing cattle, or the withering eastern 
blast ? Such was the scene, and such the hour, 
when in a comer of my prospect, I spied one 
of the fairest pieces of Nature's workmanship 
that ever crowned a poetic landscape, or met a 
poet's eye, those visionary bards excepted who 
hold commerce with aerial beings ! Had 
Calumny and Villany taken my walk, they had 
at that moment sworn eternal peace with such 
an object. 

** What an hour of inspiration for a poet ! It 

would have raised plain, duU, historic prose 
into metaphor and meaaure. 

** The enclosed song was the work of my re- 
turn home ; and perhaps it but poorly answers 
what might be expected from such a scene. 

** I have the honour to be, 
** Madam, 
(* Your most obedient, and very 
** humble servant, 

*Twas even — ^tlie dewy fields were green. 

On every blade the pearls hang ;« 
The Zephyr wanton'd round the bean, 

And Dure its fragrant sweets alang ; 
In every glen the mavis sang. 

All nature listening seemed the while, 
Except where green-wood echoes rang, 

Amang the braes o* fiallochmyle. 

With careless step I onward straved, , 

My heart rejoiced in nature's jo>, 
When musing in a lonely glade, 

A maiden fair I chanc'd to spy ; 
Her look was like the morning s eye. 

Her air like nature's vernal smile, 
Perfection whispered passing by. 

Behold the lass o* Bullocmnyle !f 

Fair is the mom in flowery May, 

And sweet is night In autumn mild ; 
When roving through the garden cay. 

Or wandering In the lonely wild : 
But woman, nature's darling child ! 

There all her charms she does compile : 
Even there her other works are foil'd 

By the bonny lass o* Ballochmyle. 

O had she been a country maid, 

And 1 the happv country swain, 
'I'hough shelterea In the lowest shed 

That ever rose on Scotland's plain. 
Throufih weary winter's wind and rain, 

With joy, witli rapture, 1 would toll, 
And nightly to my bosom strain 

The bonny lass o* Ballochmyle. 

Then pride might climb the slippery steep, 

\Miere fame and honours lofly shine ; 
And tiilrst of gold might tempt the deep, 

Or downward seek the Indian mine: 
Give me the cot below the pine. 

To tend the flocks or till tlie soil, 
And every day have joys divine, 

With tlie bonny lass o' Ballochmyle. 

In the manuscript book in which our poet 
has recounted this incident, and into which 
the letter and poem are copied, he complains 
that the lady made no reply to bis effusions, 
and this appears to have wounded his self-love. 
It is not, however, difficult to find an excuse 
for her silence. Burns was at that time little 

» Ham, SootUeisin for hung. 

f Variation. The lily's hue and rose's dye 

Betpolce the lasiC Ballochmyle. 



The philosophical mind will dwell with 
interest and pleasure on an institution that 
combined so skilfully the means of instruction 
and of happiness ; and if grandeur look down 
with a smile on these simple annals, let us 

power to transact any ordinary part of the Moiety's 

3d. I'iie club met and seated, the president shall read 
the question out of the club's book of records, (whirh 
book is always to be kept by the president) then the 
two inembers nearest the president shall oast lots who 
of them shall speak first, and accordii'g as the lot shall 
determine, the member nearest the president on that 
klde shall deliver his opinion, and the member nearest 
on the other side shall reply to him ; then the second 
member of the side that spoke first; then the sei*ond 
member of the side that 8^>ke second, and so on to the 
end of the company ; but tf there be fewer raerobera on 
the one side than on tiie other, when all the members 
of the least side have spoken according to their places, 
any of them, as they please am<mg themselves, may 
reply to the remaining members of the oppoeite side; 
when both sides have spoken, the president shall give 
his opinion, after which they may go over it a second 
or more times, and so continue the question. 

4th. The club shall then proceed to the choice of a 
question for the subject of next night's meeting The 
president bhall first propose one, and any other member 
who chooses may propose more questions ; and what- 
ever one of them is most agreeable to the majority of 
the members, shall be the subject of debate next club- 

5th. "Hie club shall, lastly, elect a new president for 
the next meeting ; the president shall first name one, 
then any of the club may name another, and whoever 
of tliem has the maiority of votes shall be duly elected ; 
allowing the president the first vote, and the casting 
vote up<m a par, but none other. Then after a general 
toast to mistresses of the club, they shall dismiss. 

6th. There shall be no private conversation carried 
on during the time of debate, nor shall any member in. 
terrupt another while he is speaking, under the penalty 
of a reprimand from the president, for the first fault, 
doubling his share of the reckoning for the second, tre. 
oling it for the third, and so on in proportion for every 
other fault ; provided always, however, that any mem. 
ber may speak at any time after leave a!>ked and given 
by the president All swearing and profane languair<*f 
andparticniarlv all obsicene and indecent converbaiion, 
is strictly prohibited, under the same penalty as afore- 
said in the first clause of this article. 

7th. No member, on any pretence whatever, shall 
mention any of the club's aninirs to any other person but 
a brother meml>er, under the pain of being excluded ; 
and particularly, if any member shall reveal any of the 
speeches or aftairs of the dub, with a view to ridicule 
or laugh at any of the rest of the members, he bhall be 
for ever excommunicated from the sm'iety ; and the 
rest of the members are desired, as much as possible, to 
avoid, and have no communication with him as a friend 
or comrade. 

8th. Every member shall attend at the meetings, 
without he can give a proper excuse for not attending: 
and it is desired that every one who cannot attend will 
send his excuse with some other member ; aod he who 
shall be absent three meetings without sending such 
excuse, shall be summoned to the clulKnight, when, if 
he fail to appear, or send ao excuse, he shall be ex. 

9th. The ciub snail not consist of more than sixteen 
members, all bachelors, behmging to the parish of Tar- 
bolton ; except a brother member marry, and in that 
case he may be continued, if the majority of the club 
think proper. No person shall be admitted a member 
of thid society, without the unanimous consent of the 
club ; and any member may withdraw from the club 
altogether, by giving notice to the president io vrrit- 
ing of his departure. 

lOth Every man proper for a member of this society, 
muMt have a frank, honest, open heart : above any thing 
dirty or mean, and must be a professed lover of one or 
more of the female sex. No haughty, self-conceited 
person, who looks upon himself as superior to the rest 
of the club, and especially no mean-spirited, worldly 
mortal, whose only will is to heap up money, shall upon 
any pretence whatever be admitted. In short, the pro- 

trust that it will be a smile of benevolence and 
approbation. It is with regret that the sequel 
of the history of the Bachelor's Club of Tar- 
bolton must be told. It survived several 
years after our pofet removed from A3rr8hire, 
but no longer sustained by his talents, or 
cemented by his social affections, its meetings 
lost much of their attraction ; and at length, 
in an evil hour, dissension arising amoni^st its 
members, the institution was given up, and the 
records committed to the flames. Happily the 
preamble and the regulations were spared; 
and, as matter of instruction and of example^ 
they are transmitted to posterity. 

After the family of our bard removed from 
Tarbolton to the neighbourhood of Mauchline, 
he and his brother were requested to assist in 
forming a similar institution there. The 
regulations of the club at Mauchline were 
nearly the same as those of the club at Tar- 
bolton ; but one laudable alteration was made. 
The fines for non.attendance had at Tarbolton 
been spent in enlarging their scanty potations : 
at Mauchline it was fixed, that the money so 
arising, should be set apart for the purchase of 
books; and the first work procured in this 
manner was the Mirror, the separate numbers 
of which were at that time recently collected 
and published in volumes. After it followed 
a number of other works, chiefly of the same 
nature, and among these the Lounger. The 
society of Mauchline still subsists, and Mras in 
the list of subscribers to the first edition of 
the works of its celebrated associate. 

The members of these two societies were 
originally all young men from the coimtry, and 
chiefly sons of farmers ; a description of per- 
sons in the opinion of our poet, more agreeable 
in their manners, more virtuous in their conduct, 
and more susceptible of improvement, than the 
self-sufficient mechanic of country towns. With 
deference to the Conversation-society of Mauch- 
line, it may be doubted, whether the books 
which they purchased were of a kind best adap- 
ted to promote the interest and happiness of 
persons in this situation of life. The Mirror 
and the Lounger, though works of great merit, 
mav be said, on a general view of their conteuts, 
to be less calculated to increase the knowledge, 
than to refine the taste of those who read them ; 
and to this last object their morality itself, 
which is however alwajrs perfectly pure, may be 
considered as subordinate. As works of taste, 
they deserve great praise. They are, indeed, 
refined ■ to a high degree of delicacy \ and to 
this circumstance it is perhaps owing, that they 
exhibit little or nothing of the peculiar manners 
of the age or country in which they were pro- 
duced. But delicacy of taste, though the 
source of many pleasures, is not without some 
disadvantages ; and to render it desirable, the 

per person for this society, is a cheerfol honest-hearted 
lad, who, if he has a friend that b true, and a roistresa 
that is kuid, and as much wealth as genteelly to make 
both ends meet— is just as happy as this world can mak« 


• • • 



and they were frequented, as may be imagined, 
by our poet in his solitary walks. Here the 
muse often visited him. In one of these wan- 
derings, he met among the woods a celebrated 
Beauty of the west of Scotland ; a lady, of 
whom it is said, that the charms of her person 
correspond with the character of her mind. 
This incident gave rise, as might be expected, 
to a poem, of which an account will be found 
in the following letter, in which he enclosed it 
to the object of his inspiration : 

To Miss . 

«« Madam, Mossgiel, 1 8th Nov. 1786. 

'* Poets are such outre beings, so much the 
children of wayward fancy and capricious 
whim, that I believe the world generally allows 
them a larger latitude in the laws of propriety, 
than the sober sons of judgment and prudence. 
I mention this as an apology for the liberties 
that a nameless stranger has taken with you 
in the enclosed poem, which he )>egs leave to 
present you with. Whether it has poetical 
merit any way worthy of the theme, I am not 
the proper judge j but it is the best my abili- 
ties can produce; and what to a good heart 
will perhaps be a superior grace, it is equally 
sincere as fervent. 

" The scenerv was nearly taken from real 
life, though I dare say, madam, you do not 
recollect it, as I believe you scarcely noticed 
the poetic reveur as he wandered by you. I 
had roved out as chance directed in the favour- 
ite haunts of my muse, on the banks of the 
Ayr, to view nature in all the gaiety of the 
vernal year. The evening sun was flaming 
over the distant western hills $ not a breath 
stirred the crimson opening blossom, or the 
verdant spreading leaf. It was a golden mo- 
ment for a poetic heart I listened to the fea- 
thered warblers, pouring their harmony on every 
hand, with a congenial kindred regard, and 
frequently turned out of my path, lest J should 
disturb their little songs, or frighten them to 
another station. Surely, said I to myself, he 
must be a wretch indeed, who, regardless of 
your harmonious endeavour to please him, can 
eye your elusive flights to discover your secret 
recesses, and to rob you of all the property 
nature gives you, your dearest comforts, your 
helpless nestlings. Even the hoary hawthorn- 
twig that shot across the way, what heart at 
such a time but must have been interested in 
its welfare, and wished it preserved from the 
rudely browsing cattle, or the withering eastern 
blast ? Such was the scene, and such the hour, 
when in a comer of my prospect, I spied one 
of the fairest pieces of Nature's workmanship 
that ever crowned a poetic landscape, or met a 
poet's eye, those visionary bards excepted who 
hold commerce with aerial beings ! Had 
Calumny and Villany taken my walk, they had 
at that moment sworn eternal peace with such 
an object 
" What an hour of inspiration for a poet ! It 

would have raised plain, dull, historic prose 
into metaphor and measure. 

" The enclosed song was the work of my re- 
turn home ; and perhaps it but poorly answers 
what might be expected from such a scene. 

" I have the honour to be, 
*' Madam, 
*» Your most obedient, and very 
*♦ humble servant, 

*Twas even — ^the dewy fields were green. 

On every blade the pearls hang ;♦ 
The Zephyr wanton'd round the bean, 

And bore its fragrant sweets alang ; 
In every glen the mavis sang. 

All nature listening seemed the while, 
Except where green- wood echoes rang, 

Amang the braes o' Ballochmyle. 

With careless step 1 onward strayed, , 

My heart rejoiced in nature's jo>, 
When musing in a lonely glade, 

A maiden fair I chanc'd to spy ; 
Her look was like the morning's eye. 

Her air like nature's vernal smile, 
Perfection whispered passing by. 

Behold the lass o* Ballochmyle !f 

Fair is the mom in flowery IMay, 

And sweet is night in autumn mild ; 
When roving through the garden gay. 

Or wandering in the lonely wild : 
But woman, nature's darling child ! 

There all her charms slie does compile : 
Even there her other works are foil'd 

By the bonny lass o' Ballochmyle. 

O had she been a country maid, 

And 1 the happy country swain, 
Though sheltereti in the lowest shed 

That ever rose on Scotland's plain. 
Through weai^ winter's wind and rain, 

With joy, with rapture, 1 would toil, 
And nightly to my bosom strain 

The bonny lass o' Ballochmyle. 

Then pride might climb the slippery steep, 

VMiere fame and honours lofty shine ; 
And thirst of gold might tempt the deep. 

Or downward seek Uie Indian mine : 
Give me the cot below the pine. 

To tend the flocks or till tlie soil, 
And every day have joys divine, 

With the bonny lass o' Ballochmyle. 

In the manuscript book in which our poe t 
has recounted this incident, and into which 
the letter and poem are copied, he complains 
that the lady made no reply to his effusions, 
and this appears to have wounded his self-love. 
It is not, however, difficult to find an excuse 
for her silence. Burns was at that time little 

* Han^, Sootticism for hung. 

f Varxation, The lily's hue and rose^ dye 

Bespoke the lasjo' Ballochniyla. 



known, and where known at all, noted rather 
for the wild strength of his humour, than for 
those strains of tenderness, in which he after- 
wards 80 much excelled. To the lady herself 
his name had perhaps never been mentioned, 
and of 8uch a poem she might not consider 
herself as the proper judge. Her modesty might 
])revent her from perceiving that the muse of 
TibuUus breathed in tliis nameless poet, and 
that her beauty was awakening strains destined 
to immortality on the banks of the Ayr. It 
may be conceived, also, that supposing the 
verses duly appreciated, delicacy might find 
it diflScuU to express its acknowledgments. 
The fervent imagination of the rustic bard 
possessed more of tenderness than of respect. 
Instead of raising himself to the condition of 
the object of his admiration, he presumed to 
reduce her to his own, and to strain this high- 
bom beauty to his daring bosom. It is true. 
Burns might have found precedents for such 
Ireedoms among the poets of Greece and Rome, 
and indeed of every country. And it is not 
to be denied, that lovely women have generally 
6ub;nitted to this sort of profanation with 
patience, and even with good humour. To 
what purpose is it to repine at a misfortune 
which is the necessary consequence of their 
own charms, or to remonstrate with a descrip- 
tion of men who are incapable of control? 

'* The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, 
Are of imagination all compact." 

It may be easily presumed, that the beauti- 
ful nymph of Ballochmyle, whoever she may 
have been, did not reject with scorn the adora- 
tions of our poet, though she received them 
with silent modesty and dignified reserve. 

The sensibility of our bard's temper, and 
the force of his imagination, exposed him in a 
particular manner to the impressions of beauty ; 
and these qualities united to his impassioned 
eloquence gave him in turn a powerful influ- 
ence over the female heart. The banks of 
the Ayr formed the scene of youthful passions 
of a still tenderer nature, the history of which 
it would be improper to reveal, were it even in 
our power, and the traces of which will soon 
be discoverable only in those strains of nature 
and sensibility to which they gave birth, 
The song entitled Highland Mary, is known 
to relate to one of these attachments. " It 
was \vritten," says our bard, " on one of the 
most interesting passages of my youthful days." 
The object of this passion died early in life, 
and the impression left on the mind of Burns 
seems to have been deep and lasting. Several 
years afterwards, when he was removed to 
Nithsdale, he gave vent to the sensibility of his 
recollections in the following impassioned 
lines : in the manuscript book from which we 
extract them, they are addressed To Mary in 
Heaven I 

Thou ling'riug star, with lessening ray, 
That lov st to greet the early morn, 

A^ain thou usher'st in the day 

My Mary from my soul was torn. 
O Mary ! dear departed shade ! 

Where is thy blissful place of rest ? 
Seest thou thy lover lowly laid ? 

Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast ? 
That sacred hour can 1 forget. 

Can I forget the hallowed grove, 
Where by the winding Ayr we mpt, 

To live one day of parting love ! 
Eternity will not efface 

Those records dear of transports past ; 
Thy image at our last embrace; 

Ah! little thought we 'twas our last ! 
Ayr gurgling kissed his pebbled shore, 

O'erhung with wild woods tiuck'ning green : 
The fragrant birch, and hawtliom hoar, 

Twin'd amorous round the raptur'd scene. 
The flowers sprang wanton to be prest 

The birds sang love on every spray 
Till too, too soon the glowing west 

Protlaim'd the speed of winged day. 
Still o'er these scenes my memVy wakes, 

And fondly broods with miser care ; 
Time but the impression deeper makes, 

As streams their channels deeper wear, 
Mv Mary, dear departed shade! 

Where is thy blissful place of rest .-' 
Seest thou thy lover lowly laid? 
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast? 

To the delineations of the poet by himself, 
by his brother, and by his tutor, these additions 
are necessary, in order that the reader may see 
his character in its various aspects, and may 
have an opportunity of forming a just notion 
of the variety, as well as the power of his ori- 
ginal genius. « 

* Tlie history of the poems formerly printed, will be 
found immediately befure the correspondence between 
Thomscm and Burns.— It Is there inserted in tl»e 
words of Gilbert Burns, who in a letter addressed to the 
Lditor, has given the following account of the friends 
which Robert's talents procured him before he left Ayr- 
shire, or attracted the notice of the world. 

** The farm of Mossgiel, at the time of our cnmintr to 
It (Martinmas 1783), was the property of the earl of 
Loudon, but was held in tack by Mr Uavin Hamilton, 
writer in Mauchline, from whom we had our bargain • 
who had thus an opportunity of knowing and slufwinir 
a sincere regard for my brother, before lie knew ihat he 
was a poet The poefs fstimation of him, and tlie 
strung outlines of his character, may be collected from 
the dedication to tliis gentleman. When the publica. 
tion was begun, Mr H. entered very warmly into ita 
interests, and promoted the subscription very extensive, 
ly, Mr Robert Aiken, writer in Ayr, is a man of worth 
and taste, of warm affections, and connected with a 
most rcBpeotable circle of friends and relations. It ia 
to this gentleman The Cotter's Saturday Sight is in- 
scribed. The poems of ray brother, which fhave formerly 
mentioned, no sooner cime into \\U hands, than thev 
were quickly known, and well received in the exteiu 
sive circle of Mr Aiken's friends, which gave them a sort 
of currency, necessary in this wise world, even for the 
good reception of things v»Iuable In themselves. But 
Mr Aiken not only admired the poet ; as soon as he be- 
( unie acquainted with him, he ahowed the warmest re- 
jfard for the man, and did every thing ifi liio power to 
forward his interest and respectability. The Epistle to a 
t oung Friend was addressed to this gentleman's son Mr 
A. H. Aiken, now of Liverpool. He was the oldest of 
a young family, who were taught to receive my brother 
w ith respect as a man of geniuH and their father's friend. 

" The Brigs of Ayr \& inscribed to John Ballantine. 
Esq. banker in Ayr; <me of those gentlemen to whom 
my brother was introduced by Mr Aiken. He intere-t. 
cd himself very warmly in my brother's concerns aud 




We have dwelt the Icnger on the early part 
nf his life, because it is tlie least known, and 
because, as has already been mentioned, this 
part of his history is connected with some views 
of the condition and manners of the humblest 
laiiks of society, hitherto little observed, and 
which will peroaps be found neither useless 
nor uninteresting. 

About the time of leaving his native country, 
his correspondence commences ; and in the 
series of letters now given to the world, the 
chief incidents of the remaining part of his life 
will be found. This authentic, though melan- 
choly record, will supersede in future the ne- 
cessity of any extended narrative. 

Burns set out for Edinburgh in the month 
of No\ embtT, 1786, and arrived on the second 
day alterwanis, having performed his journey 
on foot. He was furnished with a letter of 
introduction to Dr Blacklock, from thegentle> 
man to whom the Doctor had addressed the 
letter which is represented by our bard as the 
immediate cause of bis visiting the Scottish 
metropolis. He was acquainted with Mr 
Stewart, Professor of Moral Philosophy in 
the University, and had been entertained by 
that gentleman at Catrine, his estate in Ayr- 
shire. He had been introduced by Mr Alex- 
ander Dalzel to the Earl of Glencairn, who 
had expressed his high approbation of his 
poetical talents. He had friends therefore 
who could introduce him into the circles of 

constantiv showed the greatest friendship and attach- 
ment to him. When the Kilmarnock edition was all 
sold <)£f, and a considerable demand pointed out the pro- 
priety of pubLiahiiig a 8econd edition, Mr Wilaon, who 
had printed the first, was asked if he would print the 
second, and take his chance of being paid from the first 
sale. This he declined: and when this came to Mr 
Ballantine*s knowledge, he generously offered to accom. 
inodate Robert with what money he might need for 
that purpose ; but advised him to go to Edinburgh, as 
the fittest pince for publishing, when he did go to 
Edinburgh, hi^ friends advised him to publish again by 
snbscription, tfo that he did not need to accept this oflfer. 
Mr William Parker, merchant in Kilmarnock, was a 
subscriber for thirty.five copies of the Kilmarnock edi. 
tion. This may perhaps appear not deserving of notice 
here ; but if the comparative obscurity of the poet, at 
this period, be taken into consideration, it nppears to 
me a greater effort of generosity, than many things 
which appear more brilliant in my brother^ future h». 

''Mr Robert Muir, merchant in Kilmarnock, was one 
of tho«e friends Robert's poetry had procured him, and 
one who was dear to his heart. This gentleman had no 
very great fortune, or lontr line of dignified ancestry : 
but what Roller t says of Captain Matthew Henderson, 
might be said of him with great propriety, that he held 
the pateut of his honours tmmeaiately from Almighty 
God, Nature had indeed marked him a gentleman in 
the most legible characters. He died while yet a young 
man, soon after the publication of my brother's first 
Edinburgh edition. Sir William Cunningham of Ro. 
bertland, paid a very flattering attention, and showed n 
good deu of friendship for the poet. Before his going 
to Edinburrfa, as well as after, Robert seemed peculiarly 
pleased with Professor Stewart's friendship and con- 

** But of all the friendships which Robert acquired in 
Ayrshire or ehe where, none seemed more agreeable to 
him than that of Mrs Dunlop, of Dunlop, nor anv which 
has been more uniformly and constantly exerted in be- 
half of him and of his family ; of which, were it proper, 
I could give many instances. Robert was on the point 
of setting out for Edinburgh before Mrs Dunlop bad 

literature as well as of fashion, and his own 
manners and appearance exceeding every ex- 
pectation that could have been formed of them, 
be soon became an object of ^neral curiosity 
and admiration. The following circumstance 
contributed to this in a considerable degree. — 
At the time when Bums arrived in Edinburgh, 
the periodical paper, entitled Th9 Lounger, was 
publishing, every Saturday producing a succes- 
sive number. His poems had attracted the 
notice of the gentlemen engaged in that under^ 
taking, and the ninety- seventh number of those 
unequal, though frequently beautiful essays, is 
devoted to An Account of Robert jBtinu, the 
Ayrshire ploughman, with extracts from his 
Poems, written by the elegant pen of Mr 
Mackenzie.* The Lounger bad an extensive 
circulation among persons of taste and litera- 
ture, not in Scotland only, but in various parts 
of England, to whose acquaintance therefore 
our bard was immediately introduced. The 
paper of Mr Mackenzie was calculated to in- 
troduce him advantageously. The extracts 
are well selected ; the criticisms and reflections 
are judicious as well as generous ; and in the 
style and sentiments there i& that happy deli- 
cacy, by which the writings of the author are 
so eminently distinguished The extracts from 
Bums* poems in the ninety-seventh number of 
The Lounger, were copied into the London, as 
well as into many of the provincial papers, and 
the fame of our bard spread throughout the 

heard of him. About the time of my brother's publish, 
lug in Kilmarnock, she had been afflicted with a long 
and severe illness, which had reduced her mind to the 
most dibtressing t»tate of depression. In tliis situation, a 
copy of the printed poems was laid on her table by a 
friend, and happening to open on The Cotter"'* Saturaay 
Night, she reaa it over with the sftMitest pleasure and 
surprise : the poet's deecripti<m of the simple cottagers, 
operating on her mind like the charm of a powerful ex. 
orcist, expelling the demon ennui and restoring her tn 
her wonted inward harmony and satisfaction. — Mrs 
Dunlop sent off a person express to Mossgiel, distant 
fifteen or sixteen miles, with a very obliging letter to 
my brother, desiring him to send her half a dosen eopies 
of his poems if he had them to spare, and begging he 
would do her the pleasure of calling at Dunlop House 
as soon as cooTenient. This was the begiuoing of a cor. 
rospondence which ended only with the poet^ fife. I'he 
last use he made of his pen was writing a diort letter to 
this lady a few days before his death. 

** CoL FuUarton, who afterwards piUd a very particu. 
lar attention to the poet, was not in the country at the 
time of his first commencing author. At this distance 
of time, and in the hnrry or a wet day, snatched from 
Uiboriuus occupations, I may have forgot some persons 
who ought to liave beien mentioned on this occasion, for 
which, if it come to my knowledge, 1 shall be heartily 

The friendship of Mrs Dunlop was of particular ralne 
to Burns. This lady, daughter and sole heiress to Sir 
Thomas Wallace of Craisie, and lineal descendant of the 
illustrious WaiUuw, the first of Scottish warriors, pos. 
sesses the qualities of mind suited to her high lineage. 
Preserving, in the decline of life, the generous aflections 
of youth ; ner admhration of the poet was soon accom. 
panied by a sincere friendship lor the man : which pur- 
sued him in after life through good and evil report ; in 
poverty, in sickness, and in sorrow } and which is con . 
tinned to his infant family, now deprived of their 

* This psper has been attributed, but improperly, to 
Lord Craig, one of the Scottish Jadjres, author of the 
very iuterestinff account of Midiael Bruce, In the SQUi 
number of the Mirror. 



iblancL Of the manners, character, and con- 
duct of Burns at this period, the following ac- 
count has been given by Mr Stewart, in a letter 
to the editor, which he is particularly happy to 
have obtained permission to insert in these 

Professor Dug aid Stewart of Edinhvrgh to Dr 
James Currie (if Liverpool. 

♦' The first time I saw Robert Burns was on 
the 23d of October, 1786, when he dined at 
my house in Ayrshire, together with our com- 
mon friend Mr John Mackenzie, surgeon in 
Mauchline, to whom I am indebted for -the 
pleasure of his acquaintance. I am enabled to 
mention the date particularly, by some verses 
which Bums wrote after he returned home, and 
in which the day of our meeting is recorded. — 
My excellent and much lamented friend, the 
late Basil,. Lord Daer, happened to arrive at 
Catrine the same day, and by the kindness and 
frankness of his manners, lett an impression on 
the mind of the poet, which never was effaced. 
The verses I allude to are among the most 
imperfect of his pieces ; but a few stanzas may 
perhaps be an object of curiosity to you, both 
on account of the character to which they re- 
late, and of the light which they throw on the 
situation and fef^lings of the writer, before 
his name was known to the public. * 

** I cannot positively say, at this distance of 
time, whether, at the period of our first ac- 
quaintance, the Kilmarnock edition of bis 
poems had been just published, or was yet in 
the press. I suspect that the latter was the 
case, as I have still in my possession copies, in 
his own hand- writing, of some of his favourite 
performances; particularly of his verses **on 
turning up a Mouse with his plough ;" — " on 
the Mountain Daisy;" and "the Lament." 
On my return to Edinburgh, I showed the 
volume, and mentioned what I knew of the 
author's history, to several of my friends, and, 

* This poem is as follows ; 

This wot ye all whom it concerns, 
I, Rhymer Rubin, aliaa Bums, 

October twenty-third, 
A ne'er-to-be-forgotteii day, 
Sae far I Rprarkled f up the brae, 

I dinnerM wV a jLord. 

I've been at drunken tpriters' J fenst?, 
Nay, been bitch fou 'mang godly prie^tn, 

Wi' reverence be it spoken ; 
I've even join'd the honour'd jorum. 
When mighty Squireships of the quorum, 

Their hydra drouth did sloken. 

But wi' a Lord — stand out my shin, 
A Lord — a Peer — an Earl's snn. 

Up higher yet my bonnet; 
An* sic a Lord— lang Scotch ells twa, 
Our peerage he o'erlooks them a* 

As I look o'er my sonuet 

But O for Hogarth's magic power I 
To show Sir Bardy's willyart glowr,^ 

^CUmbM-ed { Attomrya. 

§ FriRhtoried »;^B^ 

among others, to Mr Henry Mackenzie, who 
first recommended him to public notice in the 
97th number of TTie Lounger. 
" At this time Buriis's prospects in life were 

so extremely gloomy, that he had seriously 
formed a plan of going out to Jamaica in a 
very humble situation, not, however, without 
lamenting, that his want of patronage should 
force him to think of a project so repugnant to 
his feelings, when his ambition aimed at no 
higher an object than the station of an excise- 
man or ganger in his own country. 

" His manners were then, as they continued 
ever afterwards, simple, nianly, and indepen- 
dent ; strongly expressive of conscious genius 
and worth ; but without any thing that indicat- 
ed forwardness, arrogance, or vanity. He took 
his share in conversation, but not more than 
belonged to him ; and listened with apparent 
attention and deference, on subjects where his 
want of education deprived him of the means 
of information. If there had been a little more 
of gentleness and accommodation in his temper, 
he would, I think, have been still more inter- 
esting; but he had been accustomed to give 
law in the circle of his ordinary acquaintance ; 
and his dread of any thir)g approaching to 
meanness or servility, rendered his manner 
somewhat decided and hard. Nothing, perhaps, 
was more remarkable among his various at- 
tainments, than the fluency, and precision, and 
originality of his language, when he spoke in 
company ; more particularly as he aimed at 
purity in his turn of expression, and avoided 
more successfully than n.ost Scotchmen, the 
peculiarities of Scottish phrbseology. 

" He came to Edinburgh early in the winter 

And hon- he stared and stammer 'd. 
Whan goavan 1| as if led wi' brankfi,1 
An' etuinpati on his ploughman shanks. 

He iu the parluur banimer*d. 

I sidling Blielter'd in a nook, 
An^ at nts Lordship steal't a look. 

Like some portentous omen ; 
Except good sense and social glee. 
An* (what surprised me) modesty, 

I marked nought uncommon. 

I watch 'd the symptoms o* the Great, 
The gentle pride, ttie lordly state 

The arrogant asfumiog; 
The fient a pride, nae pride had he. 
Nor saiK e, nor state tfiHt I could see, 

Mtir than an bluest ploughman. 

Then from h's Lordfihip I *^ll learn. 
Henceforth to meet with anconcem. 

One rank as well's another ; 
Nne honext irorthy man need care. 
To meet with noble youthful Daeei, 

For he but meets a brother. 

These lines will be read \rith no common interest ht 
all who remember the unaffected simplicity of appear 
ance, the sweetness of countenance and manners, aa I 
the unsuspecting benevolence of heart, of Basil, L->ra 


Walking tfupidJT. 

U 2 

y A kind ofbiKtle. 



following, and remained there for several 
months. By whose advice he took this step, 
I am unable to say. Perhaps it was suggested 
only by his own curiosity to see a little more 
of the world; but, I confess, I dreaded the 
conse<]|uence8 from the first, and alwa3rs wished 
that his pursuits and habits should continue the 
same as in the former part of life ; with the 
addition of, what I considered as then com- 
pletely within his reach, a good farm on moder- 
ate terms, in a part of the country agreeable to 
his taste. 

** The attentions he received during his stay 
in town from all ranks and descriptions of per- 
sons, were such as would have turned any head 
but his own. I cannot say that I could per- 
ceive anv unfavourable effect which they left on 
his mind. He retained the same simplicity of 
manners and appearance which had struck me 
so forcibly when I first saw him in the country ; 
nor did he seem to feel any additional self- 
importance from the number and rank of his 
new acquaintance. His dress was perfectly 
suited to his station, plain and unpretending, 
with a sufficient attention to neatness. If J 
recollect right he always wore boots ; and, 
when on more than usual ceremony, buck-skin 

** The variety of his engagements, while in 
Edinburgh, prevented me from seeing him so 
often as I could have wished. In the course 
of the spring be called on me once or twice, 
at my request, early in the morning, and 
walked with me to Braid- Hills, in the neigh- 
bourhood of the town, when he charmed me 
still more by his private conversation, than he 
had ever done in company. He Mras passion- 
ately fond of the beauties of nature ; and I 
recollect once he told me, when I was admir- 
ing a distant prospect in one of our morning 
walks, that the sight of so many smoking cot- 
tages gave a pleasure to his mind, which none 
could understand who had not witnessed, like 
himself, the happiness and the worth which 
they contained. 

" In his political principles he was then a 
Jacobite ; which was perhaps owing partly to 
this, that his father was originally from the 
estate of Lord Mareschall. Indeed he did not 
appear to have thought much on such subjects, 
nor very consistently. He had a very strong 
sense of reli^on, and expressed deep regret at 
the' levity with which he bad heard it treated 
occasionally in some convivial meetings which 
he frequented. I speak of him as he was in 
the winter of 1786-7; for afterwards we met 
but seldom, and our conversations turned 
chiefly on his literary projects, or his private 

" I do not recollect whether it appears or 
not from any of your letters to me, that you 
had ever seen Burns. « If you have, it is 
superfluous for me to add, that the idea which 
bis conversation conveyed of the powers of 

* The editor has se«n and conrvrsvd with Bums. 

his mind, exceeded, if possible, that which is 
suggested by his wtitings. Among the poets 
whom I have happened to know, I have been 
struck, in more than one instance, with the 
unaccountable disparity between their general 
talents, and the occasional inspirations of their 
more favoured moments. But all the facultit^s 
of Bums's mind were, as far as I could judge, 
equally vigorous; and his predilection for 
I>oetry was rather the result of his own enthu- 
siastic and impassioned temper, than of a 
genius exclusively adapted to that species of 
composition. From his conversation I should 
have pronounced him to be fitted to excel in 
whatever walk of ambition he had chosen to 
exert his abilities. 

** Among the subjects on which he was ac- 
customed to dwell, the characters of the indi- 
viduals with whom he happened to meet, was 
plainly a favourite one. The remarks he 
made on them were always shrewd and pointed, 
though frequently inclining too much to sar- 
casm. His praise of those he loved was 
sometimes indiscriminate and extravagant ; but 
this, I suspect, proceeded rather from the 
caprice and humour of the moment, than from 
the effects of attachment in blinding his judg- 
ment. His wit was ready, and always im- 
pressed with the marks of a vigorous under- 
standing ; but, to my taste, not often pleasing 
or happy. His attempts at epigram, in his 
printed works, are the only performances, 
perhaps, that he has produced, totally unwor- 
thy or his genius. 

" In summer, 1787, I passd some weeks in 
Ayrshire,, and saw Bums occasionally. I 
think that he made a pretty long excursion 
that season to the Highlands, and that he also 
visited what Beattie calls the Arcadian ground 
of Scotiand, upon the banks of the Teviot and 
the Tweed. 

" I should have mentioned before, that not- 
withstanding various reports I heard during 
the preceding winter, of Bums's predilection 
for convivial, and not very select society, I 
should have concluded in favour of his habits 
of sobriety, from all of him that ever fell under 
my own observation. He told me indeed 
himself^ that the weakness of his stomach was 
such as to deprive him entirely of any merit in 
his temperance. I was however somewhat 
alarmed about the effect of his now compara- 
tively sedentary and luxurious life, when he 
confessed to me, the first night be spent in my 
house after his winter's campaign in town, that 
he had been much disturbed when in bed, by 
a palpitation at his heart, which, he said, was 
a complaint to which he had of late become 

** In the course of the same season I was 
led by curiosity to attend for an hour or two a 
Masonic-Lodge in Mauchliiie, where Burns 
presided. He had occasion to make short 
unpremeditated compliments to different indi- 
victuals from whom he had no reason to expect 
a visit, and every thing he said was happily 




conceived, and forcibly as well as fluently ex- 
pressed. If J am not mistaken, he told me, 
that in that village, before going to Edinburgh, 
he had belonged to a small club of such of the 
inhabitants as had a taste for books, when 
they used to converse and debate on any inter- 
esting questions that occurred to them in the 
course of their reading. His manner of speak- 
ing in public had evidently the marks of some 
practice in extempore elocution. 

" I must not omit to mention, what I have 
always considered as characteristical in a high 
degree of true genius, the extreme facility and 
good-nature of his taste, in judging of the 
compositions of others, when there was any 
real ground for praise. I repeated to him 
many passages of English poetry with which 
he was unacquainted, and have more than once 
witnessed the tears of admiratioh and rapture 
with which he heard them. The collection of 
songs by Dr Aiken, which I 6rst put into his 
hands, he read with unmixed delight, notwith- 
standing his former efforts in that very difficult 
species of writing ; and I have little doubt 
that it had some effect in polishing his subse- 
quent compositions. 

" In judging of prose, I do not think his 
taste was equally sound. I once read to him 
a passage or two in Franklin's Works, which 
I thought very happily executed, upon the 
model of Addison ; but he did not appear to 
relish, or to perceive the beauty which they 
derived from their exquisite simplicity, and 
spoke of them with indifference, when com- 
pared with the point, and antithesis, and 
quaintness of Junius, The influence of this 
taste is very perceptible in his own prose com- 
positions, although their great and various ex- 
cellencies render some of them scarcely less I study of Latin, but dropped it before he had 

much the taste is liable to be influenced by ac- 
cidental circumstances. 

« His father appeared to me, from the ac- 
count he gave of him, to have been a respect- 
able and worthy character, possessed of a mind 
superior to what might have been expected 
from his station in life. He ascribed much 
of his own principles and feelings to the early 
impressions he had received from his instruc- 
tions and example. I recollect that he once 
applied to him (and he added, that the passage 
was a literal statement of fact), the two last 
lines of the following passage in the Mtnstref, 
the whole of which he repeated with great 
enthusiasm ; 

♦* Shall I be left forgotten in the dust, 

When fate relenting, lets tlie flower revive ; 
Shall nature's voice, to man alone unjust, 

Bid him, though doom'd to perish, hope to 
Is it for tliis fair Virtue oft must strive 

With disappointment, penury, and pain? 
No ! Heaven's immortal spring shall yet arrive ; 

And mans majestic beauty bloom again. 
Bright through ih' eternal year of love's trium- 
phant reign. 

This truth sublime, his sim]}le sire had taught : 
In sooth Uwas almost all the shq>herd knew, 

** With respect to Bunis's early education, 
I cannot say anv thing with certainty. He 
always spoke with respect and gratitude of the 
school-master who bad taught him to read 
English ; and who, finding in his scholar a 
more than ordinary ardour for knowledge, had 
been at pains to instruct him in the grammati- 
cal principles of the language. He began the 

objects of wonder than his poetical perfor- 
mances. The late Dr Robertson used to say, 
that considering his education, the former 
seemed to him the more extraordinary of the 

" His memory was uncommonly retentive, 
at least for poetry, of which he recited to me 
frequently long compositions with the most 
minute accuracy. They were chiefly ballads, 
and other pieces in our Scottish dialect ; great 
part of them (he told me) he had learned in 
his childhood, from his mother, who dtlight- 
ed in such recitations, and whose poetical 
taste, rude as it probably wa^, gave, it is pre- 
sumable, the first direction of her son*s genius. 

" Of the more polished verses which acci- 
dentally fell into his hands in his early years, 
be mentioned particularly the recommenda- 
tory poems, by diflferent authors, prefixed to 
Hervey's Meditations ; a book which has always 
had a very wide circulation among such of the 
country people of Scotland, as aflfect to unite 
some degree of taste with their religious studies. 
And these poems (although thev are certainly 
below mediocrity) he continued to read with 
a degree of rapture bevond expression. He 
took notice of this fact himself, as n proof how 

finished the verbs. I have sometimes heard 
him quote a few Latin words, buch as omnia 
vincit amor, &c. but they seemed to be such 
as he had caught from conversation, and which 
he repeated by rote. I think he had a project 
after he came to Edinburgh, of prosecuting 
the study under his intimate friend, the late 
Mr Nicol, one of the masters of the grammar- 
school here ; but I do not know if he ever 
proceeded so far as to make the attempt. 

*< He certainly possessed a smattering of 
French ; and, if he had an affectation in any 
thing, it was in introducing occasionally a word 
or a phrase from that language. It is possibl 
that his knowledge in this respect might be 
more extensive than I suppose it to be ; but 
this you can learn from his more intimate ao. 
quaintance. It would be worth while to in- 
quire, whether he was able to read the French 
authors with such facility as to receive from 
them any improvement to his taste. For my 
own part, I doubt it much^-nor would I be- 
lieve it, but on very strong and pointed evi- 

<* If my memory does not fail me, he was 
well instructed in arithmetic, and knew some- 
thing of practical geometry, purtinilarly of 



surveying.—- All his other attainments were 
entirely his own. 

*< The last time I saw him was during the 
mnter, 1788-89;* when he passed an evening 
with me at Drumsheupfh, in the neighbour- 
hood of Edinburgh, where I was then living. 
My friend Mr Alison was the only other in 
company. I never saw him more agreeable 
or interesting. A presertt which Mr Alison 
sent him afterwards of his Fjisayn on Taste, 
drew from Burns a letter of acknowledgment, 
which I remember to have read with some 
degiee of surprise at the distinct conception he 
appeared from it to have formed, of the several 
principles of the doctrine of association. When 
I saw Mr Alison in Shropshire last autumn, 
I forgot to inquire if the letter be still in exis- 
tence. If it is, you may easily procure it, by 
lueans of our friend Mr Houlbrooke."f 

The scene that opened on our bard in 
Edinburgh was altogether new, and in a va- 
riety of other respects highly interesting, 
especially to one of his disposition of mind. 
To use an expression of his own, he found 
himself ** suddenly translated from the veriest 
shades of life,*' into the presence, and, indeed, 
into the society of a number of persons, pre- 
viously known to him by repo^ as of the 
highest distinction in his country, and whose 
characters it was natural for liim to examine 
with no common curiosity. 

From the men of letters, in general, his re- 
ception was particularly flattering. The late 
Dr Robertson, Dr Blair, Dr Gregory, Mr 
Stewart, Mr Mackenzie, and Mr Fraser 
Tytler, may be mentioned in the list of 
those who perceived his uncommon talents, 
who acknowledged more especially his power in 
conversation, and who interested themselves 
in the cultivation of his genius. In Edin- 
burgh, literary and fashionable society are a 
good deal mixed. Our bard was an acceptable 
guest in the gayest and most elevated circles, 
and frequently received from female beauty and 
elegance, those attentions above all others most 
grateful to him. At the table of Lord Mon- 
boddo he was a frequent guest ; and while he 
enjoyed the society, and partook of the hospi- 
talities of the venerable Judge, he experienced 
the kindness and condescension of his lovely 
and accomplished daughter. The singular 
beauty of this young lady was illumined by that 
happy expression of countenance which results 
from the union of cultivated taste and superior 
understanding, with the finest affections of the 
mind. The influence of such attractions was 
not unfelt by our poet. " There has not been 
any thing like Miss Burnet," said he in a letter 

• Or rather 1780-90. I cannot speak with confidence 
with respect to the particular year. Some of my other 
dates raay possibly require correction, as I keep no 
journal of such occurrences. 

t 1 his letter will be found in page 65. 

to a friend, ** in all the combinations of beauty, 
grace, and goodness, the Creator has formed, 
since Milton's Eve on the first day of her ex- 
istence.'V In his Address to Edinburgh, she 
is celebrated in a strain of still greater eleva- 
tion : 

" Fair Burnet strikes th* adoring eye, 
Heaven's beauties on my fancy shine ; 

I see the Sire of Love on high. 

And own his works indeed divine !'*f 

This lovely woman died a few years after- 
wards in the flower of her youth. Our bard 
expressed his sensibility on that occasion, in 
verses addressed to her memory. \ 

Among the men of rank and fashion. Burns 
was particularly distinguished by James, Earl 
of Glencairn. On the motion of this noble- 
man, the (Caledonian Hunt, (an association of 
the principal of the nobility and gentry of Scot- 
land,) extended their patronage to our bard, and 
adnnitted him to their gay orgies. He repaid 
their notice b;^ a dedication of the enlarged and 
improved edition of his poems, in which he has 
celebrated their patriotism and independence in 
very animated terms. 

" I congratulate my country that the blood of 
her ancient heroes runs uncontaminated ; and 
that, from your courage, knowledge, and public 
spirit, she may expect protection, wealth, and 
liberty May corrup- 
tion shrink at your kindling indignant glance ; 
and may tyranny in the ruler, and licentious- 
ness in the people, equally find in you an inexo- 
rable foe ! 

It is to be presumed that these generous sen- 
timents, uttered at an era singularly propitious 
to independence of character and conduct, were 
favourably received by the persons to whom 
they were addressed, and that they were echoed 
from every bosom, as well as from that of the 
Earl of Glencairn. This accomplished noble- 
man, a scholar, a man of taste and sensibility, 
died soon afterwards. Had he lived, and had 
his power equalled his wishes, Scotland might 
still have exulted in the genius, instead of la- 
menting the early fate of her favourite bard. 

A taste for letters is not always conjoined 
with habits of temperance and regularity ; and 
Edinburgh, at the period of which we speak, 
contained perhaps an uncommon proportion of 
men of considerable talents, devoted to social 
excesses, in which their talents were wasted 
and debased. 

Burns entered into several pities of this de- 
scription, with the usual vehemence of his char- 
acter. His generous aflfections, his ardent elo- 
quence, his brilliant and daring imagination, 
fitted him to be the idol of such associations > 
and accustoming himself to conversation of un- 
limited range, and to festive indulgences that 
scorned restraint, he gradually lost some por- 
tion of his relish for the more pure, but less 
poignant pleasures, to be found in the circles 

p. 9. 

fp. 131 tp. 6a 



of taste, elegance, and literature. The sudden 
alteration in his habits of life operated on him 
physically as well as morally. The humble fare 
of an Ayrshire peasant he had exchanged for 
the luxuries of the Scottish metropolis, and 
the effects of this change on his ardent consti- 
tution could not be inconsiderable. But what- 
ever influence might be produced on his con- 
duct, his excellent understanding suffered no 
correspondent debasement. He estimated bis 
friends and associates of every description at 
their proper value, and appreciated his own 
conduct with a precision that might give scope 
to much curious and melancholy reflection. He 
saw his danger, and at times formed resolutions 
to guard against it ; but he had embarked on 
the tide of dissipation, and was borne along its 

Of the state of his mind at this time, an au- 
thentic, though imperfect document remains, in 
a book which he procured in the spring of 1787, 
for the purpose, as he himself informs us, of 
recording in it whatever seemed worthy of ob- 
servation. The follovnng extracts may serve 
as a specimen : 

Edinburgh, April 9, 1787. 
" As I have seen a good deal of human life 
in Edinburgh, a great many characters which 
are new to one bred up in the shades of life as 
I have been, I am determined to take down 
my remarks on the spot. Gray observes in a 
letter to Mr Palgrave, that, ' half a word fixed 
upon, or near the spot, is worth a cart-load of 
recollection.' I don't know how it is with the 
world in general, but with me, making my re 
marks is by no means a solitary pleasure. I 
want some one to laugh with me, some one to 
be grave with me, some one to please me, and 
help my discrimination, with his or her own 
remark, and at times, no doubt, to admire my 
acuteness and penetration. The world are so 
busied with selfish pursuits, ambition, vanity, 
interest, or pleasure, that very few think it 
worth their while to make any observation on 
what passes around them, except where that 
observation is a sucker, or branch of the darling 
plant they are rearing in their fancy. Nor am 
I sure, notwithstanding all the sentimental 
flights of novel-writers, and the sage philosophy 
of moralists, whether we are capable of so 
intimate and cordial a coalition of friendship, 
as that one man may pour out his bosom, his 
every thought and floating fancy, his very in- 
most soul, with unreserved confidence to an- 
other, without hazard of losing part of that re- 
spect which man deserves from man ; or 
from the unavoidable imperfections attend- 
ing human nature, of one day repenting his 

For these reasons I am determined to make 
these pages my confident. I will sketch every 
character that any way strikes me, to the best 
of my power, with unshrinking justice. I will 
insert anecdotes, and take down remarks, in the 
old law phrase, without feud or favour Wliero 

I hit on any thing clever, my own applbuse 
will, in some measure, feast my vanity } and 
begging Patroclus' and Achates* pardon, I 
think u lock and key a security, ut least equal 
to the bosom of any friend whatever. 

*' My own private story likewise, my love- 
adventures, my rambles ; the frowns and smiles 
of fortune on my hardship ; my poems and 
fragments, that must never see the light, shall 
be occasionally inserted. — In short, never did 
four shillings purchase so much friendship since 
confidence went first to mark€t, or lionesty was 
set up to sale. 

** To these seemingly invidious, hut too just 
ideas of human friendship, I would cheerfully 
make one exemption — the connexion between 
two persons of different sexes, when their 
interests are united and absorbed by the tie of 
When thought meets thought, ere from the lips 

it part. 
And each warm wish springs mutual from the 


There, confidence — confidence that exalts 
them the more in one another's opinion, that 
endears them the more to each other's hearts, 
unreservedly * reigns and revels.' But this 
is not my lot ; and, in my situation, if I am 
wise (which by the bye I have no great chance 
of being), my fate should be cast with the 
Psalmist's sparrow * to watch alone on the 
house tops.' — Oh, the pity ! 

" There are few of the sore evils under the sun 
give me more uneasiness and chagrin than the 
comparison how a man of genius, nay of avowed 
worth, is received every where, with the re- 
ception which a mere ordinary character, de- 
corated with the trappings and futile distinc- 
tions of fortune, meets. I imagine a man of 
abilities, his breast glowing with honest pride, 
conscious that men are bom equal, still ginng 
honour to whom honour is due ; he meets, at a 
great man's table, a Squire something, or a 
Sir somebody ; he knows the nobU landlord, 
at heart, gives the bard, or whatever he is, n 
share of his good wishes, beyond, perhaps, any 
one at table ; yet how will it mortify him to 
see a fellow, whose abilities would scarcely 
have made an eightpenny tailory and whose bean 
is not worth three farthings, meet with atten 
tion and notice, that are withheld from the sor 
of genius and poverty ? 

*' The noble G has wounded me to 

the soul here, because I dearly esteem, respect, 
and love him. He showed so much attention 
—engrossing attention, one day, to the only 
blockhead at table (the whole company 
consisted of his lordship, dunderpate, and my- 
self), that I was within half a point of throw- 
ing down my gage of contemptuous defiance ; 
but he shook my hand, and looked so bene- 



volently good at parting. God bless him 
though I should never see hina more, I shall 
love him until my dying dav ! I am pleased 
to think J am so capable of the throes of grati- 
tude, as I am miserably deficient in some other 

" With *■ I am more at my ease. I 

never respect him with humble veneration ; 
but when he kindly interests himself in my 
welfare, or still more when he descends from 
Ills pinnacle, and meets me on equal ground 
in conversation, my heart overflows \nt\i what 
is called liking. When he neglects me for the 
mere carcass of greatness, or when bis eye 
measures the difference of our points of eleva- 
tion, I say to myself, with scarcely any emo- 
tion, what do I care for him, or his pomp 
either ?'' 

The intentions of the poet in procuring this 
book, so fully described oy himself, were very 
imperfectly executed. He has inserted in it 
few or no incidents, but several observations 
and reflections, of which the greater part that 
are proper for the public eye, will be found in- 
terwoven in the volume of his letters. The 
most curious particulars in the book are the 
delineations of the characters he met with. 
These are not numerous ; but they are chiefly 
of persons of distinction in the republic of ' 
letters, and nothiiig but the delicacy and re- ■ 
spect due to living characters prevents us from j 
committing them to the press. Though it : 
appears that in his conversation he was some- j 
times disposed to sarcastic remarks on the men , 
with whom he lived, nothing of this kind is dis- 
coverable in these more deliberate eflforts of 
his understanding, which, while they exhibit 
great clearness of discrimination, manifest also 
the >vish, as well as the power, to bestow high 
and generous praise. 

By the new edition of his poems, Burns ac- 
quired a sum of money that enabled him not 
only to partake of the pleasures of Edinburgh, 
but to gratify a desire he had long entertained, 
of visiting those parts of his native country, 
most attractive by their beauty or their gran- 
deur ; a desire which the retuni of summer na- 
turally revived. The scenery on the banks of 
the Tweed, and of its tributary streams strongly 
interested his fancy ; and, accordingly, be left 
Edinburgh on the 6th of May, 1787, on a tour 
through a country so much celebrated in the 
rural songs of Scotland. He travelled on 
horseback, and was accompanied, during some 
part of his journey, by Mr Ainslie, now writer 
to the signet, a gentleman who enjoyed much 
of his friendship and of his confidence. Of 
this tour a journal remains, which, however, 
contains onl^ occasional remarks on the scen- 
ery, and which is chiefly occupied with an ac- 
count of the author's different stages, and 
with his observations on the various characters 

to whom he was introduced. In the course of 
this tour be visited Mr Ainslie of Berrywell, 
the father of his companion ; Mr Brydone, the 
celebrated traveller, to whom he carried a let- 
ter of introduction from Mr Mackenzie ; the 
Rev Dr Somerville of Jedburgh, the historian ; 
Mr and Mrs Scott of Wauchope ; Dr Elliot, 
physician, retired to a romantic spot on the 
banks of the Boole ; Sir Alexander Don ; Sir 
James Hall of Dunglass ; and a great variety 
of other respectable characters. Every where 
the fame of the poet had spread before him, 
and every where he received the most hospi* 
table and flattering attentions. At Jedbui^h 
he continued several days, and was honoured by 
the magistrates with the freedom of their bor- 
ough. The following may serve as a specimen 
of this tour, which the perpetual reference to 
living characters prevents our giving at large. 

" Saturday, May 6. Left Edinburgh— Lam- 
mer-muir hills, miserably dreary in general, but 
at times very picturesque. 

** Lanson-edge, a glorious view of the Merse. 
Reach BerrywelL • . . The family, 
meeting with my compagnon de voyage, very 
charming ; particularly the sister. . . . 

** Sunday, Went to church at Dunse. Heard 
Dr Bowmaker. . . . 

** Monday. Coldstream glorious river* 

Tweed — clear and majestic — fine bridge— dine 
at Coldstream with Mr Ainslie and Mr Fore- 
man. Beat Mr Foreman in a dispute about 
Voltaire. Drink tea at Lennel- House with 
Mr and Mrs Brydone. . . . Reception 
extremely flatterihg. Sleep at Coldstream. 

" Tuesday. Breakfast at Kelso — charming 
situation of the town — fine bridge over the 
Tweed. Enchanting views and prospects on 
both sides of the river, especially on the Scotch 
side. . . . Visit Roxburgh Palace — fine 
situation of it Ruins of Roxburgh Castle — 
a holly-bush growing where James the Second 
was accidently killed by the bursting of a can- 
non. A small old religious ruin and a fine 
old garden planted by the religious, rooted out 
and destroyed by a Hottentot, a maitre rf* hotel 
of the Duke's ! — Climate and soil of Berwick- 
shire, and even Roxburghshire, superior to Ayr- 
shire — bad roads — turnip and sheep husbandry, 
their great improvements. . . . Low mar- 
kets, consequently low lands — magnificence of 
farmers and farm-houses. Come up the Tevi- 
ot, and up the Jed to Jedburgh, to lie, and so 
wish myself good night. 

" Wednesday. Breakfast with Mr Fair. , 

. . Charming romantic situation of Jed- 
burgh, with gardens and orchards, intermingled 
among the houses and the ruins of a once magni- 
ficent cathedral. All the towns here have the 
appearance of old rude grandeur, but extremely 
idle. — Jed, a fine romantic little river. Dined 
with Capt. Rutherford, . . . return to 
Jedburgh. Walked up the Jed with some 
ladies to be shown Love4ane, and Blackburn, 
two fairy scenes. Introduced to Mr Potts, 



wTiter, and to Mr Sommerville, the clergyman 
of the parish, a man, and a gentleman, but sad- 
ly addicted to punning. 

'* Jedburgh, Saturday, Was presented by 
the magistrates with the freedom of the town. 

♦• Took farewell of Jedburgh, with some 
melancholy sensations. 

^* Monday, May U, Kelso. Dine with the 
farmer's club — all gentlemen talking of high 
matters — each of them keeps a hunter from 
£30 to £,LQ value and attends the fox-hunting 
club in the coimtry. Go out with Mr Ker, 
one of the club, and a friend of Mr Ainslie's, 
to sleep. In his mind and manners, Mr Ker 
is astonishingly like my dear old friend Robert 
Muir— Every thing in his house elegant. He 
offers to accompany me in my English tour. 

*• Tuesday, Dine with Sir Alexander Don ; 
a very wet day. . . . Sleep at Mr Ker's 
again, and ser out next day for Melrose — visit 
Dryburgh a fine old ruined abbey, by the 
way. Cross the Leader, and come up the 
Tweed to Melrose. Dine there, and visit that 
far-famed glorious ruin — Come to Selkirk up 
the banks of Ettrick. The whole country 
hereabouts, both on Tweed and Ettrick, re- 
markably stony.'* 

Having spent three weeks in exploring this 
interesting scenery. Burns crossed over into 
Northumberland. Mr Ker, and Mr Hood, 
two gentlemen with whom he had become ac- 
quainted in the course of his tour, accompani- 
ed him. He visited Alnwick Castle ; the 
princely seat of the Duke of Northumberland ; 
the hermitage and old castle of Warksworth; 
Morpeth, and Newcastle. — In this town he 
spent two days, and then proceeded to the 
south-west by Hexham and Wardrue, to Car- 
lisle. — After spending a few days at Carlisle 
with his friend Mr Mitchell, he returned into 
Scotland, and at Annan his journal terminates 

Of the various persons with whom he be- 
came acquainted in the course of this journey, 
he has, in general, given some account ; and 
almost always a favourable one. That on the 
banks of the Tweed and of the Teviot, our 
bard should find nymphs that were beautiful, 
is what might be confidently presumed. Two 
of these are particularly described in his journal. 
But it does not appear that the scenery, or its 
inhabitants, produced any effort of his muse, 
as was to have been wished and expected. 
From Annan, Burns proceeded to Dumfries, 
and thence through Sanquhar, to Mossgiel, 
near Mauchline, in Ayrshire, where he arrived 
about the 8th of June, 1787, after an absence 
of six busy and eventful months. It will be 
eamly conceived with what pleasure and pride 
he was received by his mother, his brothers. 

and sisters. He had left them poor, and com- 
paratively friendless ; he returned to them high 
in public estimation, and easy in his circum- 
stances. He returned to them unchanged in 
his ardent affections, and ready to share with 
them to the uttermost farthing, the pittance 
that fortune had bestowed. 

Having remained with them a few days, he 
proceeded again to Edinburgh, and immediate- 
ly set out on a journey to the Highlands. Of 
this tour no particulars have been found among 
his manuscripts. A letter to his friend Mr 
Ainslie, dated Arrachas^ near Crochaiibas, by 
Lochlearyy June 28, 1787, commences as fol- 
lows : 

•' I write you this on my tour through a 
country where savage streams tumble over 
savage mountains, thinly overspread with sav- 
age flocks, which starvingly support as savage 
inhabitants. My last stage was Inverary — to- 
morrow night's stage, Dumbarton. I ought 
sooner to have answered your kind letter, but 
you know I am a man of many sins.*' 

From this journey Bums returned to his 
friends in Avrshire, with whom he spent the 
month of July, renewing his friendships, and 
extending bis acquaintance throughout the 
county, where he was now very generally 
known and admired. In August he again 
visited Edinburgh, whence he undertook 
another journey towards the middle of this 
month, in company with Mr M. Adair, now 
Dr Adair, of Harrowgate, of which this 
gentleman has favoured us with •the following 
account : 

" Bums and I left Edinburgh together in 
August, 1787. We rode by Linlithgow and 
Carron, to Stirling. We visited the iron- works 
at Carron, with which the poet was forcibly 
struck. The resemblance between that place, 
and its inhabitants, to the cave of Cvclops, 
which must have occurred to every classical 
visitor, presented itself to Bums. At Stirling 
the prospects from the castle strongly inter- 
ested him ; in a former visit to which, his 
national feelings had been powerfully excited 
by the ruinous and roofless state of the hall in 
which the Scottish Parliaments had frequent- 
ly been held. His indignation had vented 
itself in some imprudent, but not unpoetical 
lines, which had given much offence, and which 
he took this opportunity of erasing, by break- 
ing the pane of the window at the inn on 
which they were written. 

••At Stirling we met with a company ot 
travellers from Edinburgh, among whom was 
a character in many respects congenial with 
that of Burns. This was Nicol, one of the 
teachers of the High Grammar- School at 
Edinburgh — the same wit and power of con- 
versation ; the same fondness for convivial 
society, and thoughtlessness of to-morrow, 
characterized both. Jacobitical principles in 
politics were common to both of them ; and 
these have been suspected, since the revolution 
of France, to have given place in each, to 



scenes, and the imagination of Burns was 
constantly excited by the wild and sublime 
ecenery through which he passed. Of this, 
several proofs may be found in the poems for- 
merly printed.* Of the history of one of 
these poems, The humble Petition of Bruar 
Water, page 150, and of the bard's visit to 
Athole House, some particukrs will be found 
in Letters No. 33. and No. 34 : and bv the 
favour of Mr Walker of Perth, then residing 
in the family of the Duke of Athole, we are 
enabled to give the following additional ac- 

*< On reaching Blair,, he sent me notice of 
his arrival (as I had been previously acquainted 
with him), and I hastened to meet him at the 
inn. The Duke, to whom he brought a letter 
of introduction, was from home; but the 
Duchess, being informed of his arrival, gave 
him an invitation to sup and sleep at Athole 
House. He accepted the invitation ; but, as 
the hour of supper was at some distance, 
begged I would in the interval be his guide 
through the grounds. It was already growing 
dark ; yet the softened, though faint and un- 
certain, view of their beauties, which the 
moonlight afforded us, seemed exactly suited 
to the state of his feelings at the time. I had 
often, like others, experienced the pleasures 
which arise from the sublime or elegant land- 
scape, but I never saw those feelings so intense 
as in Burns. When we reached a rustic hut 
on the river Tilt, where it is overhung by a 
woody precipice, from which there is a noble 
water- fall, he threw himself on the heathy seat, 
and gave himself up to a tender, abstracted, 
and voluptuous enthusiasm of imagination. 
J cannot help thinking it might have been 
here that he conceived the idea of the follow- 
ing lines, which he afterwards introduced into 
his poem on Bruar Water, when only fancy- 
ing such a combination of objects as were now 
present to his eye. 

Or, by the reaper's nightly beam, 
Mild, chequering through the trees, 

Rave to my darkly-dashing stream, 
Hoarse-swelling on the breeze. 

*' It was with much difficulty I jyevailed on 
him to quit this spot, and to be introduced in 
proper time to supper. 

" My curiosity was great to see how he 
would conduct himself in company so different 
from what he had been accustomed to.f His 
manner was unembarrassed, plain, and firm. 
He appeared to have complete reliance on his 

own native good sense for direoiiDg his beha- 
He seemed at once to perceive and to 


• See " Lines on seeiug some water-fowl in Loch 
Tiu-it, a wild scene among the hills of Ochtertyre," p. 
151. " Lines written with a Pencil over the chimney, 
piece, in the Inn at Kenmore, Taymouth," p. 151 . 
*• Lines written with a pencil standing by the Fall of 
Fyres, near Lochness,'^ p. 152. 

t In the preceding winter. Bums had b«en in com- 
pany of the highest rank in Edinburgh ; but this de. 
erription of his manners is perfectly applicable to his 
tiriit appearance in such society. 

appreciate what was due to the company and 
to himself, and never to forset a proper respect 
for the separate species of dignity belonging 
to each. He did not arrogate conversation, 
but, when led into it, he spoke with ease, pro- 
priety, and manliness. He tried to exert his 
abilities, because he knew it was ability alone 
gave him a title to be there. The Duke's fine 
voung family attracted much of his admiration ; 
he drank their healths as honest men and honnie 
lasses, an idea which was much applauded by 
the company, and with which he hs^ very feli- 
citously closed his poem.* 

" Next day I took a ride with him through 
some of the most romantic parts of that 
neighbourhood, and was highly gratified by his 
conversation. As a specimen of his happiness 
of conception and strength of expression, I 
will mention a remark which he made on his 
fellow-traveller, who was walking at the time 
a few paces before us. He was a man of a 
robust but clumsy person; and while Burns 
was expressing to me the value he entertained 
for him, on account of his vigorous talents, 
although they were clouded at times by coarse- 
ness of manners ; " in short," he added, " his 
mind is like his body, he has a confounded 
strong in-knee'd sort of a soul." 

** Much attention was paid to Bums both 
before and after the Duke's return, of which 
he was perfectly sensible, without being vain ; 
and at his departure J recommended to him, 
as the most appropriate return he could make, 
to write some descriptive verses on any of the 
scenes with which he had been so much de- 
lighted. After leaving Blair, he, by the 
Duke's advice, visited the Falls of Bruar ^ and 
in a few davs I received a letter from Inver^ 
ness, with the verses enclosed. **f 

It appears that the impression made by our 
poet on the noble family of Athole was in a high 
degree favourable . it is certain he was charmed 
with the reception he received from them, and 
he often mentioned the two davs he spent at as among the happiest of his life. 
He was warmly invited to prolong his stay, but 
sacrificed his inclinations to his engagement 
with Mr Nicol ; which is the more to be re- 
gretted, as he would otherwise have been intro- 
duced to Mr Dundas (then daily expected on a 
visit to the Duke), a circumstance that might 
have had a favourable influence on Bunis's 
future fortunes. At A thole-house, he met 
for the first time, Mr Graham of Fintry, to 
whom he was afterwards indebted for his office 
in the Excise. 

The letters and poems which he addressed 

• See p. 151. 

t Extract of a letter from Mr Walker to Mr Cun- 
nineham, dated Perth, 24th Octuber, Vm. 

ITie letter mentioned as written to Mr Walker-bv 
Mr Burns, will be found in p. 18. Mr Walker will, it 
IS hoped, have the goodness to excuse the printing of 
his reply (without his permUsion), p. 20. * 



to Mr Graham, bear testimony of bis sensibi- 
lity, and justify the supposition, that he would 
not have been deficient in gratitude had he 
been elevated to a situation better suited to 
bis disposition and to his talents.* 

A few days after leaving Blair of Athole, 
our poet and his fellow-traveller arrived at 
Fochabers. In the course of the preceding 
winter Burns had been introduced to the 
Duchess of Gordon at Edinburgh, and pre- 
suming on this acquaintance, he proceeded to 
Gordon Castle, leaving Mr Nicol at the inn in 
the village. At the castle our poet was re- 
ceived with the utmost hospitality and kind- 
ness, and the family being about to sit down 
to dinner, he was invited to take his place at 
table as a matter of course. This invitation 
he accepted, and after drinking a few glasses 
of wine, he rose up and proposed to withdraw. 
On being pressed to stay, he mentioned, for 
the first time, his engagement with his fellow- 
traveller ; and his noble host ofifering to send 
a servant to conduct Mr Nicol to the castle, 
Burns insisted on undertaking that office him> 
self. He was, however, accompanied by a 

fentleman, a particular acquaintance of the 
)uke, by whom the invitation was delivered 
in all the forms of politeness. The invitation 
came too late ; the pride of Nicol was infiamed 
to a high degree of passion, by the neglect 
which he had already suffered. He had ordered 
the horses to be put to the carriage, being de- 
termined to proceed on his journey alone : and 
they found him parading the streets of Focha- 
bers, before the door of the inn, venting his 
anger on the postillion, for the slowness with 
which he obeyed his commands. As no ex- 
planation nor entreaty could change the pur 
pose of his fellow-traveller, our poet was 
reduced to the necessity of separating from 
him entirelv, or of instantly proceeding with 
him on their journey. He chose the last of 
these alternatives : and seating himself beside 
Nicol in the post-chaise, with mortification 
and regret, he turned his back on Gordon 
Castle, where he had promised himself some 
happy days. Sensible, however, of the great 
kindness of the noble family, he made the best 
return in his power, by the following poem.f 


Streams tJiat elide in orient plains 
Never bound by winter's chains ; 
Glowing here on golden sands, 
There commix'd with foulest stains 
From tymnny's empurpled bands : 
These, tlieir riclily gleaming waves, 
I leave to tyrants and their slaves ; 
Give me the stream that sweetly laves 
The banks by Castle-Gordon. 

• See the first Epi-itte to Mr Graham^ soliciting an 
etnploymeDt in the Excise, p. 33; and his second Epis. 
tie, PI44. 

f J hfs informntion is extracted from a letter of Dr 
C'Miper of Fochabers to the Editor. 


Spicy forests ever gay, 
Snading from the burning ray 
Hapless wretches sold to toil, 
Or the ruthless native's way. 
Bent on slaughter, blood, and spoil 
Woods that ever verdant wave, 
I leave the tyrant and the slave, 
Give me the groves that lofty brave 
The storms, by Castle-Gordon. 


Wildly here, without control, 
Nature reigns and rules the whole; 
In that sober pensive mood. 
Dearest to the feeling soul, 
She ulants the forest, pours the flood. 
Life s poor dav I'll musing rave. 
And find at night a sheltering cave, 
Where waters flow and wild woods ware, 
By bonnie Castle- Gordon.* 

Burns remained at Edinburgh during the 
greater part of the winter, 1787-8, and again 
entered into the society and dissipation of that 
metropolis. It appears that, on the 3 1st day 
of December, he attended a meeting to cele- 
brate the birth-day of the lineal descendant of 
the Scottish race of kings, the late unfortunate 
Prince Charles Edward. Whatever might 
have been the wish or purpose of the original 
institutors of this annual meeting, there is no 
reason to suppose that the gentlemen of which 
it was at this time composed, were not per- 
fectly loyal to the king on the throne. It is 
not to be conceived that they entertained any 
hope of, «my wish for, the restoration of the 
House of Stuart; but, over their sparkling 
wine, they indulged the generous feelings 
which the recollection of fallen greatness is 
calculated to inspire ; and commemorated the 
heroic valour which strove to sustain it in vain 
— valour worthy of a nobler cause and a hap- 
pier fortune. On this occasion our bard took 
upon himself the office of poet- laureate, and 
produced an ode, which, though deficient in 
the complicated rhythm and polished versifica- 
tion that such compositions require, might, on 
a fair competition, where energy of feelings 
and of expression were alone in question, have 
won the butt of Malmsey from the retd lau- 
reate of that day. 

The following extracts may serve as a spe- 
cimen : — 

False flatterer, Hope, away ! 
Nor think to lure us as in days of yore 

We solemnize this sorrowing natal day. 
To prove our loyal truth — we can no more; 

And, o^vning Heaven's mysterious swaj 
Submissive, low, adore. 

* These verses fiur poet composed to be sunr to 
Morag, a Highluud air of which he was extremely ^nd 




Ye honour'd mighty dead ! 
Who nobly perish'd in the glorious cause, 
Your king, your country, and her laws ! 

From great Dundee, who smiling victory 
And fell a martvr in her arms, 
(What breast of northern ice but warms?) 
To bold Bal merino's undyins name, 
Whose soul, of fire, lighted at Heaven's high 

Deserves the proudest wrtath departed heroes 
claim. ♦ 


Not unrevenged your fate shall bo; 

It only lags, tlie fatal hour ; 
Your blood shall witli incessant cry 

Awake at last th* unsparing power. 
As from the cliff, with thundering course, 

The snowy ruin smokes along. 
With doubling speed and gathering force, 
Till deep it crashing whelms the cottage in the 

vale ; 
So vengeance .... 

In relating the incidents of our poet's life in 
Edinburgh, we ought to have mentioned the 
sentiments of respect and sympathy with which 
he traced out the grave of his predecessor 
Fergusson, over whose ashes, in the Canon, 
gate church-yard, he obtained leave to erect an 
humble monument, which will be viewed by 
reflecting minds with no common interest, and 
which will awake, in the bosom of kindred 
genius, many a high emotion, f Neither 
should we pass over the continued friendship 
he experienced from a poet then living, the 
amiable and accomplished Blacklock — To his 
encouraging advice it was owing (as has already 
appeared) that Burns, instead of emigrating to 
the West Indies, repaired to Edinburgh. He 
received him there with all the ardour of affec- 
tionate admiration ; he eagerly introduced him 
to the respectable circle of his friends ; he 
consulted bis interest ; he blazoned his fame ; 
he lavished upon him all the kindness of a 
generous and feeling heart, into which nothing 
selfish or envious ever found admittance. 
Among the friends whom he introduced to 
Burns was Mr Ramsay of Ochtertyre, to 
whom our poet paid a visit in the autumn 
of 1787, at his delightful retirement in the 
neighbourhood of Stirling, and on the banks 
of the Teith. Of this visit we have the fol- 
lowing particulars : 

** 1 have been in the company of many men 
of genius,*' says Mr Ramsay, " some oi them 
poets, but never witnessed such flashes of in- 

* In the first port of this ode there is some beautifal 
imagery, wtiicli the poet afterwards interwove in a 
happier manner, in the Chevalier^t Lament^ (See p. S6.) 
But if there were no utiier reasons for omitting to print 
tiie entire poem, the want of oru^nality would be snf- 
6cient A considerable part of it is a Icind of rant, for 
which, indeed, precedent may be cited in various other 
odet, but with wliich it is impossible to go along. 

t See page 21, wtiere the Epitaph will be found, &c. 

tellectual brightness as from him, the impulse 
of the moment, sparks of celestial fire ! 1 
never was more delighted, therefore, than with 
his company for two days, tete-a-tete. In a 
mixed company I should have made little of 
him ; for, in the gamester's phrase, he did not 
always know when to play off and when to 
play on. ... I not only proposed to him the 
writing of a play similar to the Gentle Sheih' 
herd, qualem decet esse tororem, but Scottish 
georgice, a subject which Thomson has by no 
means exhausted in his Seasons. What iNBau- 
tiful landscapes of rural life and manners might 
not have been expected from a pencil so faith- 
ful and forcible as his, which could have ex- 
hibited scenes as familiar and interesting as 
those in the Gentle Shepherd^ which every 
one who knows our swains in the unadultered 
state, instantly recognises as true to nature. 
But to have executed either of these plans, 
steadiness and abstraction from company were 
wanting, not talents. When I asked him 
whether the Edinburgh Literati had mended 
his poems by their criticisms, * Sir,' said he, 
' these gentlemen remind me of some spin- 
sters in m^ country, who spin their thread so 
fine that it is neither fit for weft nor woof.** 
He said he had not changed a word except 
one, to please Dr Blair."* 

Having settled with his publisher, Mr Creech, 
in February, 1788, Bums found himself mas- 
ter of nearly five hundred pounds, after dis- 
charging all his expenses. Two hundred 
pounds he immediately advanced to his brother 
Gilbert, who had taken upon himself the 
support of their aged mother, and was strug- 
gling with many difficulties in the farm of 
Mossgiel. With the remainder of this sum, 
and some further eventual profits from his 

f»oem8, he determined on settling himself for 
ife in the occupation of agriculture and took 
from Mr Miller of Dalswinton, the farm of 
£llisland, on the banks of the river Nith, six 
miles above Dumfries, on which be entered 
at Whitsunday, 1788. Having been previous- 
ly recommended to the Board of Excise, his 
name had been put on the list of candidates 
for the humble office of a ganger or excise- 
man ; and he immediately applied to acquiring 
the information necessary for filling that office, 
when the honourable Board might judge it pro- 
per to employ him. 

He expected to be called into service in 
the district in which his farm was situstt-d, 
and vainly hoped to unite with success the 
labours of the farmer with the duties of the 

When Bums had in this manner arranged 
his plans for futurity, his generous heart 
turned to the object of bis most ardent attach- 
ment, and listening to no considerations but 

« Extract of a letter from Mr Retmtojf to th4 Editor 
** This lncorri({ibilitv of Bums extended, however, only 
to his poems printea before he arrived in Edinburgh $ 
for, iu rcfard to his onpubliahed poMns, h* waa amen*, 
ble to criticism, of which many prooft may be given.** 
See some remarks on this subject, in Appendix. 


If • 

those of lionour and affection, he joined with 
her in a public declaration of marriage', thus 
legalizing their union, and rendering it perma- 
nent for life. 

Before Burns was known in Edinburgh, a 
specimen of bis poetry had recommended him 
to Mr Miller of Dalswinton. Understand- 
ing that he intended to resume the life of a 
farmer, Mr Miller had invited him in the 
spring of 1787, to view his estate in Niths- 
dale, offering him at the same time the choice 
of any of his farms out of lease, at such a 
rent as Burns and his friends might judge pro- 
per. It was not in the nature of Bums to 
take an undue advantage of the liberality of 
Mr Miller. He proceeded in this business, 
however, with more than usual deliberation. 
Having made choice of the farm of EUisland, 
he employed two of his friends skilled in the 
value of land, to examine it, and, with their 
approbation, offered a rent to Mr Aliller, 
which was immediately accepted. It was not 
convenient for Mrs Bums to remove imme- 
diately from Ayrshire, and our poet therefore 
took up his residence alone at EUisland, to 
prepare for the reception of his wife and chil- 
dren, who joined him towards the end of the 

The situation in which Burns now found 
himself was calculated to awaken reflection. 
The different steps he had of late taken were 
in their nature highly important, and might be 
said to have, in some measure, fixed his destiny. 
He had become a husband and a father ; he 
had engaged in the management of a consi- 
derable farm, a difficult and laborious under* 
taking; in his success the happiness of bis 
family was involved; it was time, therefore, 
to abandon the gaiety and dissipation of which 
he had been too much enamoured ; to ponder 
seriously on the past, and to form virtuous re- 
solutions respecting the future. That such 
was actually the state of his mind, the follow- 
ing extract from his common-place book may 
bear witness : — 

" Eilislandy Sunday, I'Uh June, 1789. 
** This is now the third day that I have been 
in this country. * Lord, what is man !' What 
a bustling little bundle of passions, appetites, 
ideas, and fancies ! and what a capricious kind 
of existence he has here ! . . There is 
indeed an elsewhere, where, as Thomson says, 
virtue soU survives. 

•' Tell us, ye dead : 
Will none of you in pity disclose the secret. 
What 'lis you are, and we must shortly be ? 

A little time 
Will make us wise as you are, and as close." 

" J am such a coward in life, so tired of 
the service, that I would almost at any time, 
with Milton's Adam, * gladly lay me in my 
mother's lap, and be at peace.' 

♦* But a wife and children bind me to strug- 
gle with the stream, till some sudden squal 

shall overset the silly vessel, or in the listless 
return of years, its own crazmess reduce it to 
a wreck. Farewell now to those giddy follies, 
those varnished vices, which, though hiUf- 
sanctlfied by the bewitching levity of wit and 
humour, are at best but thriftless idling with 
the precious current of existence ; nay, often 
poisoning the whole, that;, like the plains of 
Jericho, the water is naught and the ground 
barren, and nothing short of a supernaturally- 
gifted Elisha can ever after heal the evils. 

•• Wedlock, the circumstance that buckles 
me baldest to care, if virtue and religion were 
to be any thing with me but names, was what 
in a few seasons I must have resolved on ; in 
my present situation it was absolutely neces- 
sary. Humanity, generosity, honest pride of 
character, justice to my own happiness for 
after life, so far as it could depend (which it 
surely will a great deal) on intemal peace ; all 
these joined their warmest suffrages, their most 
powerful solicitations, with a rooted attach- 
ment, to urge the step 1 have taken. Nor 
have I any reason on her part to repent it. — 
I can fancy how, but have never seen where, 
I could have made a better choice. Come, 
then, let me act up to my favourite motto, 
that glorious passage in Young — 

* On reason biu'ld resolve. 
That column of true majesty in man !' " 

Under the impulse of these reflections, 
Burns immediately engaged in rebuilding the 
dwelling-house on his farm, which, in* the 
state he found it, was inadequate to the ac- 
commodation of his family. On this occasion, 
he himself resumed at times the occupation 
of a labourer, and found neither his strength nor 
his skill impaired. — Pleased with surveying the 
grounds he was about to cultivate, and with 
the rearing of a building that should give shelter 
to his wife and children, and as he fondly 
hoped, to his own grey hairs, sentiments of 
independence buoyed up his mind, pictures of 
domestic content and peace rose on his ima- 
gination ; and a few days passed away, as he 
himself informs us, the most tranquil, if not 
the happiest, which he had ever experienced.* 

* Animated sentiments of any kind, almost alvrays 
ffAve rise in oar poet to some production of his rau>e. 
His eentiments on thb occaaion wore Id part exprt-ssid 
by the following vigorous and charRcteristic, thouj.h 
not very delicate verses : they are in imitation of an old 

I HAB a wife o' my ain, 

ril partake wi' nae<body ; 
I'll tak cuckold frae nane, 

rii gie cuckold to na«-body. 

1 Ixae a penny to spend. 

There—thanks to nae-body ; 
I hae naething to lend, 

ni borrowfrae naebody. 

I am nae-body's lord, 

I'll be slave to nae*body ; 
I hae a guid braid bword, 

I'll tak dant« frae nae.body, 



It is to be lamented that at this critical 
period of his life, our poet was without the 
society of his wife and children. A great 
change had taken place in his situation ; his 
old habits were broken ; and the new circum- 
stances in which he was placed were calculated 
to give a new direction to his thoughts and 
conduct.* But his application to the cares 
and labours of his farm was interrupted by 
several visits to his family in Ayrshire ; and 
as the distance was too great for a single day's 
journey, he generally spent a night at an inn 
on the road. On such occasions he sometimes 
fell into company, and forgot the resolutions 
he had formed. In a little while temptation 
assailed him nearer home. 

His fame naturally drew upon him the at- 
tention of his neighbours, and he soon formed 
a general acmiaintance in the district in which 
he lived. The public voice had now pro- 
nounced on the subject of his talents ; the re- 
ception he had met with in Edinburgh had 
given him the currency which fashion bestows ; 
be had surmounted the prejudices arising from 
his humble birth, and he was received at the 
table of the gentlemen of Nithsdale with wel- 
come, with kindness, and even with respect. 
Their social parties too often seduced him from 
his rustic labours and his rustic fare, overthrew 
the unsteady fabric of his resolutions, and in- 
flamed those propensities which temperance 
might have weakened, and prudence ultimately 
suppressed.! It was not long, therefore, be- 
fore Burns began to view his farm with dis 
like and despondence, if not with disgust. 

Unfortunately he had for several years look- 
ed to an office in the Excise as a certain means 
of livelihood, should his other expectations fail. 
As has already been mentioned, he had been 
recommended to the Board of Excise, and bad 
received the instruction necessary for such a 
situation. He now applied to be employed ; 
and by the interest of Mr Graham of Fintra, 
was appointed to be exciseman, or, as it is 
vulgarly called gauger, of the district in which 
he lived. His farm was, after this, in a great 
measure abandoned to servants, while he betook 
himself to the duties of his new appointment. 

He might indeed still be seen in the spring, 
directing his plough, a labour in which he ex. 

I'll be merry and free, 

I*U be sad fur nae.body ; 
If uae-body rare for me, 
I'll rare for nae-body. 

* Mrs Burns was about to be ronftned in child-bcd, 
uiid the house at Klii-land was rebuilding. 

t The poem ol The n/iistfe celebrates a Bacchanalian 
r.'ntfbt among thre*' gentlemen of N thsdale, where 
liurns appears as umpire. Mr Riddel died before our 
Brtfd. and some eK-giac verses to his memory will be 
found in p. \ii. From him, and from all the members 
of his family, Burns received not kindness only but 
friendship ; and the society he met in general at Friar's 
Carse was c.ilrulated to improve his nabits as well as 
his roauuers. Mr Fergusou of Craigdarroch, so well 
known for his eloquence and social talents, died soon 
afler our poet. Sir Robert Lawrie, the Uiird person 
in the drama survives, and has since been engaged in 
contests of a bloodier nature. I^»ng may he live to fiffht 
tile battles of his country ! (1?J9.) 

celled ; or with a white sheet containicg hia 
seed-corn, slung across his shoulders, striding 
with measured steps along his turned up fur- 
rows, and scattering the grain in the earth, 
but his farm no longer occupied the prin- 
cipal part of his care or hit thoughts. It 
was not at Ellisland that he was now in 
general to be found. Mounted on horseback, 
this high-minded poet was pursuing the defaul- 
ters of the revenue, among the hills and vales 
of Nithsdale, his roving eye wandering t)ver 
the charms of nature, and muUermghiM wayward 
fancies as he moved along. 

" I had an adventure with him in the vear 
1790," says Mr Ramsay of Ochtertyre, m a 
letter to the editor, "when passing through 
Dumfries- shire, on a tour to the south, with 
Dr Steuart of Luss. Seeing him pass quickly 
near Closeburn, I said to my companion, * that 
is Bums.' On coming to the inn, the hostler 
told us he would be ^ck in a few hours to 
grant permits.; that where he mtt with any 
thing seizable he was no better than any other 
gauger, in every thing else, he was perfectly a 
gentleman. After leaving a note to be 
delivered to him on his retium, I proceeded to 
his house, being curious to see his Jean, &c 
I was much pleased with his loror Sabina qua&$, 
and the poet's modest mansion, so unlike the 
habitation of ordinary rustics. In the evening 
he suddenly bounced in upon us, and said as 
he entered, I come, to use the words of Shak- 
speare, itewcd in haste. In fact, he had ridden 
incredibly fast after receiving my note. We 
fell into conversation directly, and soon got 
into the mare magnum of poetry. He told 
me that he had now gotten a story for a drama, 
which he was to call Rob Macquechan*s hlshon, 
from a popular story of RolM^rt Bruce being 
defeated on the water of Caem, when the hee of 
his boot having loosened in his flight, he ap. 
plied to Robert Macquechan to fix it ; who, 
to make sure, ran his awl nine inches up the 
king's heel. We were now going on at a great 

rate, when Mr S popped in his head; 

which put a stop to our discourse, which had 
become very interesting. Yet in a little 
while it was resumed, and such was the 
force and versatility of the bard's genius, that 
he made the tears run difwn Mr S — *8 cheeks, 
albeit unused to the poetic strain. • • v . . 
From that time we met no more, and I was 
grieved at the reports of him afterwards. 
Poor Burns ! we shall hardly ever see his like 
again. He was, in truth, a sort of comet in 
literature, irregular in its motions, which did 
not do good proportioned to the blaze of light 
it displayed." 

In the summer of 1791, two English gentle- 
men who had before met with him in Edinbui^h, 
made a visit to him at Ellisland. On calling at 
the house, they were informed that he had walk- 
ed out on the banks of the.river ; and dismount- 
ing from their horses, they proceeded in search 
of him. On a rock that projected into the 
stream, they saw a man eroploved in angling, 
of a singular appearance. He had a cap made 



of a fox's skin on his head, a loose great-coat 
tixed round him by a belt, from which depend- 
ed an enormous highland broad-sword. It was 
Burns. He received them with great cordial- 
ity, and asked them to share his humble dinner 
— an invitation which they accepted. On the 
table they found boiled beef, with vegetables 
and barley-broth, after the manner of Scot- 
land, of which they partook heartily. After 
dinner, the bard told them ingenuously that he 
had no wine to offer them, nothing better than 
Highland whiskey, a bottle of which Mrs 
Burns set on the board. He produced at the 
same time his punch-bowl made of Inverary 
marble, and mixing the spirits with water and 
sugar, filled their glasses, and invited them to 
drink.* The travellers were in haste, and be- 
sides, the flavour of the whiskey to their south- 
ron palates was scarcely tolerable; but the 
generous poet offered them his best, and his 
ardent hospitality they found it impossible to 
resist. Burns was in his happiest mood, and 
the charms of his conversation were altogether 
fascinating. He ranged over a great variety 
of topics, illuminating whatever he touched. 
He related the tales of his infancy and of his 
youth ; he recited some of the gayest and some 
of the tenderest of his poems ; in the wildest 
of his stmins of mirth, he threw in touches of 
melancholy, and spread around him the elec- 
tric emotions of his powerful mind. The high- 
land whiskey improved in its flavour; the marble 
bowl was again and again emptied and replen- 
ished ; the guests of our poet forgot the flight 
of time, and the dictates of prudence : at the 
hour of midnight they lost their way in return- 
ing to Dumfries, and could scarcely distinguish 
it when assisted by the morning's dawn.f- 

Besides his duties in the Excise and his so- 
cial pleasures, other circumstances interfered 
with the attention of Bums to his farm. He 
engaged in the formation of a society for pur- 
chasing and circulating books among the far- 
mers of his neighbourhood, of which be under- 
took the management \\ and he occupied him- 
self occasionally in composing songs for the 
musical work of Mr Johnson, then in the 
course of publication. These engagements, 
useful and honourable in themselves, contri- 
buted, no doubt, to the abstraction of his 
thoughts from the business of agriculture. 

The consequences may be easily imagined. 
Notwithstanding the uniform prudence and 
good management of Mrs Burns, and though 
bis rent was moderate and reasonable, our 
poet found it convenient, if not necessary, to 
resign his farm to Mr Miller; after having oc- 
cupied it three years and a half. His office in 
the Excise had originally produced about fifty 
pounds per annum. Having acquitted himself 
10 the satisfaction of the Board, he had been I 

* This bowl WHS made of the Htone of wliich Inverary 
house iH built, the inan'^ion of the family of Argyle. 
f Given from the information of one of the party. 
X Sei- p. bi. 

appointed to a new district, the emoluments of 
which rose to about seventy pounds per annum. 
Hoping to support himself and his family on 
this humble income till promotion should 
reach him^ he disposed of his stock and of his 
crop on Ellisland by public auction, and re- 
moved to a small house which he had taken in 
Dumfries, about the end of the year 1791. 

Hitherto Burns, though addicted to excess 
in social parties, had abstained from the habit- 
ual use of strong liquors, and his constitution 
hud not suffere<l any permanent injury from the 
irregularities of his conduct. Ju Dumfries, 
temptations to ihe sin that so easily beset htm, 
continually presented themselves ; and bis ir- 
regularities grew by degrees into habits. These 
temptations unha})pily occurred during his en- 
gagements in the business of hisoflice, as well 
as during his hours of relaxation ; and though 
he clearly foresaw the consequence of yielding 
to them, his appetites and sensations, which 
could not pervert the dictates of his judgment, 
finally triumphed over all the powers of his 
will. Yet this victory was not obtained with- 
out many obstinate truggles, and at times tem- 
perance and virtue seemed to have obtained the 
mastery. Besides his engagements in the Ex- 
cise, and the society into which they led, many 
circumstances contributed to the melancholy 
fate of Burns. His great celebrity made him 
an object of interest and curiosity to strangers, 
and few persons of cultivated minds passed 
through Dumfries without attempting to see 
our poet, and to enjoy the pleasure of his con- 
versation. As he could not receive them un- 
der bis own humble roof, these interviews 
passed at the inns of the town, and often ter- 
minated in those excesses which Burns some 
times provoked, and was seldom able to resist. 
And among the inhabitants of Dumfries and 
its vicinity, there were never wanting persons 
to share his social pleasures ; to lead or accom- 
pany him to the tavern ; to partake in the 
wildest sallies of his wit ; to witness the 
strength and degradation of his genius. 

Still, however, he cultivated the society of 
persons of taste and respectability, and in their 
company could impose on himself the restraints 
of temperance and decorum. Nor was bis 
muse dormant. In the four years which he 
lived in Dumfries, he produced many of bis 
beautiful lyrics, though it does not appear that 
he attempt! d any poem of considerable length. 
During this time, he made several excursions 
into the neighbouring country, of one of which, 
through Galloway, an account is preserved in 
a letter of Mr Syme, written soon after; 
which, as it gives an animated picture of him by 
a correct and masterly band, we shall present 
to the reader. 

" I got Bums a grey Highland shelty to ride 
on. We <lined the first day, 27th July, 1793, 
at Glendenwynes of Parton ; a beautiful situa- 
tion on the banks of the Dee. In the evening 
we walked out, and ascended a gentle emi- 
nence, from which we had as fine a view of 



Alpine scenery as can well be imagined. A 
delightful soft evening showed all its wilder as 
well as its grander graces. Immediately op« 
posite, and within a mile of us, we saw Airds, 
a charming romantic place, where dwelt Low, 
the author of Mary weep no more for me.* 
This was classical ground for Burns. He 
viewed *'the highest hill which rises o'er the 
source of Dee ;'* ajid would have staid till 
•* the passing spirit " had appeared, had we not 
resolved to reach Kenmore that night. We 
arrived as Mr and Mrs Gordon were sitting 
down to supper. 

" Here is a genuine baron's seat. The cas- 
tle, an old building, stands on a large natural 
moat. In front, the river Keii winds for se- 
veral miles through the most fertile and beauti- 
ful hoIm,f till it expands into a lake twelve 
miles long, the banks of which, on the south, 
present a fine and soft landscape of green 
knolls, natural wood, and here and there a grey 
rock. On the north, the aspect is great, wild, 
and I may say, tremendous. In short, I can 
scarcely conceive a scene more terribly roman- 
tic than the castle of Kenmore. Burns thinks 
so highly of it, that he meditates a description 
of it in poetry. Indeed, I believe he has begun 
the work. We spent three days with Mr 
Gordon, whose polished hospitality is of an 
original and endearing kind. Mrs Gordon's 
lap-dog, Fcho, was dead. She would have an 
epitaph for him. Several had been made. 
Burns was asked for one. This was setting 
Hercules to his distuff. He disliked the sub- 
ject*, but, to please the lady, he would try. 
Here is what he produced ; 

In wood and wild, ye warbling throng. 

Your heavy loss deplore ; 
Now half CXI inrt your powers of song. 

Sweet Echo is no more. 

Ye janing screeching things around. 

Scream \our discordant joys ; 
Now half ) (lur din of tuneless sound 

With Echo silent lies. 

*' We left Kenmore, and went to Gatehouse. 
I took him the moor-rond, where savage and 
desolate regions extended wide around. The 
sky was sympathetic with the ^^Tetchedness of 
the soil ; it became lowering and dark. The 
hollow winds sighed, the lightnings gleamed, 
the thunder rolled. The poet enjoyed the 
awful scene— he spoke not a word, but seemed 
rapt in meditation. In a little while the rain 
began to fall ; it poured in floods upon us. 

« A beautiful and well-known ballad, which begins 
thus : 

The moon had ciirobd the highest hill 
Which rises o'er the source of Dee, 
And, from the eastern summit, shed 
Its silver light on tower and tree. 
j- The level low ground on the banks of a river or 
stream. This word should be adopted from the Scot- 
tish, as, indeed, ought several others of the same nature. 
That dialect is singularly copious and exact in the de- 
nominations! of natural objects. 

For three hours did the wild elements rumble 
their hellp-fuU upon our defenceless beads. 
Ohf oh ! Uwas/ouL We got utterly wet ; and 
to revenge ourselves, Burns insisted at Gate- 
house on our getting utterly drunk. 

•* From Gatehouse, we went next day to 
Kirkcudbright, through a fine country. But 
here I must tell you that Burns had got a pair of 
Jemmy boots for the journey, which had been 
thoroughly wet, and which had been dried in 
such a manner that it was not possible to get 
them on again. — The brawmy poet tried force, 
and tore them to shreds. A whifling vexa. 
tion of this sort is more trying to the temper 
than a serious calamity. We were going to 
Saint Mary's Isle, the seat of the Earl of Sel- 
kirk, and the forlorn Bums was discomfited 
at the thought of his ruined boots. A sick 
stomach, and a heart-ache, lent their aid, and 
the man of verse was quite accable, I attempt • 
ed to reason with him. Mercy on u^, how he 
did fume and rage ! Nothing could reinstate 
him in temper. I tried various expjedients, and 
at last hit on one that succeedetl. I showed 
him the house of • • • •,, across the buy of 
Wigton. Against • • ' •, with whom he 
was offended, he expectorated his spleen, and 
regained a most agreeable temper. He was 
in a most epigrammatic humour indeed ! He 
afterwards fell on humbler game. There is 

one whom he does not love. 

He had a passing blow at him. 

When , deceased, to the devil went 

'Twas nothing would serve him but Satan's own 

crown : 
Thy foors head, quoth Satan, that crown shall 

wear never, 
I grant thou*rt as wicked^ but not quite so 


** Well, 1 am to bring you to Kirkcudbright 
along with our poet, without boots. I carried 
the torn ruins across my saddle in spite of his 
fulminations, and in contempt of appear- 
ances ; and what is more, Lord Selkirk carried 
them in his coach to Dumfries. He insisted 
they were worth mending. 

** We reached Kirkcudbright about one 
o'clock. I had promised that we should dine 
with one of the first men in our country, J. 
Dalzell. But Burns was in a wild and obstre. 
perous humour, and swore he would not dine 
where he should be under the smallest restraint. 
We prevailed, therefore, on Mr Dtdzell to 
dine with us in the iim, and had a very agree- 
able party. In the evening we set out for St 
Mary's Isle. Robert had not absolutely re- 
gained the milkiness of ^od temper, and it 
occurred once or twice to him, as he rode along, 
that St Manx's Isle was the seat of a Lord ; 
^et that Lord was not an aristocrate, at least 
in his sense of the word. We arrived about 
eight o'clock, as the family were at tea and 
cofiee. St Mary's Isle is one of the most de. 
lightf ul places that can, in my opinion, be form- 




ed by ilie assemblage of every soft but not 
tame object whieb constitutes natural and cul- 
tivated beauty. But not to dwell on its exter- 
nal graces, let me tell you that we found all 
the ladies of the family (all beautiful J at homo, 
and some strangers ; and among others, who 
but Urbani .' The Italian sung us many Scot- 
tish 6ong<>, accompanied with instrumental 
music. The two young ladies of Selkirk sung 
also. We had the song of Lord Gregory, 
which I asked fur, to have an opportunity of 
calling on Burns to recite his ballad to that 
tunc. He did recite it; and such was the 
efTect, that a dead silence ensued. It was such 
a silence as a mind of feeling naturally pre- 
serves when it is touched with that enthusiasm 
which banishes every other thought but the 
contemplation and indulgence of the sympathy 
produced. Burns' Lord Gregory is, in my 
opinion, a most beautiful and affecting ballad.* 
1'he fastidious critic may perhaps say, some 
of the sentiments una imagery are of too ele- 
vated a kind for such a style of composition ; 
fur instance, " Thou bolt of Heaven that pass- 
est by ;" and, *• Ye mustering thunder,*' &c. ; 
but this is a cold-blooded objection, which will 
be said rather than felt. 

" We enjoyed a most happy evening at Lord 
Selkirk's. We had, in every sense of the word, 
a feast, in which our minds and our senses 
were equally gratified. The poet was delight- 
ed with his company, and acquitted himself to 
admiration. The lion that had raged so vio- 
lently in the morning, was now as mild and 
gentle as a lamb. Next day we returned to 
Dumfries, and so ends our peregrination. I 
told you, that in the midst of the storm, on the 
wilds of Kenmore, Burns was wrapt in medi- 
tation. What do you think he was about? 
He was charging the English army, along with 
Bnice, at Baniockburn. He was engaged in 
the same manner on our ride home from St 
Mary's Isle, and I did not disturb him. Next 
day he produced me the following address of 
Bruce to his troops, and gave me a copy for 

* Scols, wha ha'e wi^ Wallace bled,' &c." 

Burns had entertained hopes of promotion 
in the Exci-^e ; but circumstances occurred 
which retarded their fulfilment, and which, in 
his own mind, destroyed all expectation of 
their being ever fulfilled. The extraordinary 
events which ushered in the revolution of 
France, interested the feelings, and excited the 
hopes of men in every corner of Europe. Pre- 
judice and tyranny seemed about to disappear 
from among men, and the day-star of reason to 
rise upon a benighted world. In the dawn of 
this beautiful morning, the genius of French 
freedom appeared on our southern horizon with 
the countenance of an angel, but speedily as- 

♦ See p. 'V:, 

t.See p. 2)^i 

sumed the features of a dt.moD, and vanished 
in a shower of blood. 

Though previously a Jacobite and a cavalier, 
Burns had shared in the original hopes enter- 
tained of this astonishing revolution, by ardent 
and benevolent minds. The novelty and the 
hazard of the attempt meditated by the First, 
or Constituent Assembly, served rather, it is 
probable, to recommend it to his daring tem- 
per j and the unfettered scope proposed to be 
given to every kind of talents, was doubtless 
gratifying to the ft clings of conscious but in- 
dij^nant genius. Burns foresaw not the mighty 
ruin that was to be the immedidte consequence 
of an enterprise, which, on its commencement, 
promised so much happiness to the human 
race. And even after the career of guilt and 
of blood commenced, he could not immediately, 
it may be presumed, withdraw his partial gaze 
from a people who had so lately breathed the 
i^entiments of universal peace and benignity, 
or obliterate in his bosom the pictures of hope 
and of happiness to which those sentiments 
had given birth. Under these impressions, he 
did not always conduct himself with the cir- 
cumspection and prudence which his depend- 
ent situation seemed to demand. He engaged 
indeed in no popular associations, so common 
at the time of which we speak; but in com- 
pany he did not conceal his opinions of public 
measures, or of the reforms required in the 
practice of our government ; and sometimes, in 
his social and unguarded moments, he uttered 
them with a wild and unjustifiable vehemence. 
Information of this was given to the Board of 
Excise, with the exaggerations so general in 
such cases. A superior officer in that de- 
partment was authorized to inquire into his 
conduct. Bums defended himself in a letter 
addressed to one of the board, written with 
great independence of spirit, and with more 
than his accustomed eloquence. The officer 
appointed to inquire into his conduct gave a 
favourable report. His steady friend, Mr 
Graham of Fintra, interposed his good offices 
in his behalf; and the imprudent ganger was 
suffered to retain his situation, but given lo 
understand that his promotion was deferred, 
and must depend on his future behaviour. 

This circumstance made a deep impression 
on the mind of Burns. Fame exaggerated his 
misconduct, and represented him as actually 
dismissed from his office : and this report in- 
duced a gentleman of much respectability to 
propose a subscriptiun in his favour. The 
offer was refused by our poet in a letter of 
great elevation of sentiment, in which he gives 
an account of the whole of this transaction, and 
defends himself from imputation of disloyal 
sentiments on the one band, and on the other, 
from the charge of having made submissions 
for the sake of his office, unworthy of his char- 

" The partiality of my countrymen," he ob- 
serves, " ban brought me forward as a man of 
genius, and has given ine a character to swp- 



XV 111 


port. In the poet I have avowed manly and 
independent sentiments, which I hope have 
been found in the man. Reasons of no less 
weight than the support of a wife and children, 
have pointed out my present occupation as the 
only eligible line of life within my reach. Still 
my honest fame is my dearest concern, and a 
thousand times have I trembled at the idea of 
the degrading epithets that malice or misrepre- 
sentation mny affix to my name. Often in 
blasting anticipation have I listened to some 
future hackney scribbler, with the heavy nia- 
lice of savuge stupidity, exultingly asserting 
that Bums, notwithstanding the fanfaronade of 
independence to be found in his works, and 
after having been held up to public view, and 
to public estimation, as a man of some genius, 
yet, quite destitute of resources within himself 
to support his borrowed dignity, dwindled into 
a paltry excisemen, and slunk out the rest 
of his insignificant existence in the meanest of 
pursuits, and among the lowest of mankind. 

** In your illustrious hands, sir, permit me to 
lodge my strong disavowal and defiance of such 
slanderous falsehoods. Bums was a poor man 
from his birth, and an exciseman by necessity ; 
but— I will say it! the sterling of his honest 
worth, poverty could not debase, and his inde- 
pendent British spirit, oppression might bend, 
but could not subdue.*' 

It was one of the last acts of his life to copy 
this letter into his book of manuscripts, ac- 
companied by some additional remarks on the 
same subject. It is not surprising, that at a 
season of universal alarm for the safety of the 
constitution, the indiscreet expressions of a man 
so powerful as Burns, should have attracted 
notice. The times ceitainly required extraor- 
dinary vigilance in those intrusted with the 
administration of the government, and to insure 
the safety of the constitution was doubtless 
their first duty. Yet generous minds will 
lament that their measures of precaution should 
have robbed the Imagination of our poet of the 
last prop on which his hopes of independence 
rested, and by embittering his peace, have ag- 
gravated those excesses which were soon to 
conduct him to an untimely grave. 

Though the vehemence of Bums's temper, 
increased as it often was by stimulating liquors, 
might lead him into many improper and un- 
guarded expressions, there seems no reason to 
doubt of his attachment to our mixed form of 
government. In his common. place book, 
where he could have no temptation to disguise, 
are the following sentiments. — " Whatever 
might be my sentiments of republics, ancient 
or modem, as to Britain, I ever adjured the 
idea. A constitution which, in its original 
principles, experience has proved to be every 
way fitted for our happiness, it would be in- 
sanity to abandon for an untried visionary 
theory." In conformity to these sentiments, 
when the pressing nature of public affairs called 
in 1795 for a general arming of the people. 
Bums appeared in the ranks of the Dumfries 

volunteers, and employed his poetic^ talents 
in stimulating their patriorism ;♦ and at this 
season of alarm, he brought forward the foUow- 
ing hymn, worthy of the Grecian muse, when 
Greece was most conspicuous for genius ana 

Scene— ^ Field of Battle— Time of the day, 
Evening--the wounded and dying of the t-tc- 
iorious army are supposed to join in the fol- 
lowing Song. 

Farewell, thou fair day, thou green earth, and 
ye skies, 

Now gay with the bright settmg sun ; 
Farewell loves and friendships, ye dear tender ties, 

Our race of existence is run 1 

Thou grim king of terrors, thou life's gloomy foe, 
Go. frighten the coward and slave ; 

Go, teach them to tremble, fell tyrant ! but know, 
No terrors hast thou to the brave ! 

Thou strik'st the dull peasant, he Sinks In the dark, 
Nor saves e'en the wreck of a name ; 

Thou strik*st the young hero— a glorious mark ! 
He falls in tlie blaze of his fame ! 

In the field of proud honour— our swords in our 

Our king and our country to save-— 
While victory shines on life's last ebbing sands, 

O ! who vould not rest with the brave !t 

Though by nature of an athletic form, Bums 
had in his constitution the peculiarities and the 
delicacies that belong to the temperament of 
genius. He was liable, from a very early pe- 
riod of life, to that intermption in the process 
of digestion, which arises from deep and anxious 
thought, and which is sometimes the effect, and 
sometimes the cause of depression of spirits. 
Ck)nnected with this disorder of the stomach, 
there was a disposition to head ache, affecting 
more especially the temples and eye-balls, and 
frequently accompanied by violent and irregular 
movements of the heart. Endowed by nature 
mth great sensibility of nerves, Bums was, in 
his corporeal, as well as in his mental system, 
liable to inordinate impressions; to fever of 
body as well as of mind. This predisposition 
to disease, which strict temperance in diet, 
regular exercise, and sound sleep, might have 
subdued, habits of a different nature strength- 
ened and inflamed. Perpetually stimulated by 
alcohol in one or other of its various forms, the 

* See p. 180 
t This poem was written in 1791. Sec p. 71. It was 
printed in Jolinson's Musical Museum. Tlie po*?t had 
an intention, in the latter part <>f liia life, of printing it 
separately, set to musie, but was advised against **!<"" 
at least discouraged from it. ITie martial ardour which 
r»>8e so high afterwards, on the threatened invaaiou, had 
not then acquired the tone necessary to give popularity 
to this noble poem : wlvich, to the editor, seems more 
calculated to invigorate the spirit of defence, in a season 
of real and pressing danger, than any production of 
modern times. It is here printed with his last correc- 
tions, varied a little from the copy followed, p. 71. 



inordinate actions of the circulating system be- 
came at length habitual; the process of nutri- 
tion was unable to supply the waste, and the 
powers of life began to fail. Upwards of a 
year before his death, there was an evident de- 
cline in our poet*s personal appearance, and 
though his appetite continued unimpaired, be 
was himself sensible that his constitution was 
sinking. In his moments of thought he reflect- 
ed with the deepest regret on his fatal progress, 
clearly foreseeing the goal towards which he was 
hastening, without the strength of mind neces- 
sary to stop, or even to slacken his course. 
His temper now became more irritable and 
gloomy; he fled from himself into society, 
often of the lowest kind. And in such com- 
pany, that part of the convivial scene, in which 
wine increases sensibility and excites benevo- 
lence, was hurried over, to reach the succeeding 
part, over which uncontrolled passion generally 
presided. He who suffers the pollution of 
inebriation, how shall he escape other pollution? 
But let us refrain from the mention of errors 
over which delicacy and humanity draw the veil. 

In the midst of all his wanderings, Burns 
met nothing in his domestic circle but gentle- 
ness and forgiveness, except in the gnawings of 
his own remorse. He acknowledged his trans- 
gressions to the wife of his bosom, promised 
amendment, and again and again received par- 
don for his oflTences. But as the strength of 
his body decayed, his resolution became feebler, 
and habit acquired predominating strength. 

From October, 1792, to the January follow- 
ing, an accidental complaint confined him to 
the house. A few days after he began to go 
abroad, be dined at a tavern, and returned home 
about three o'clock in a very cold morning, be- 
numbed and intoxicated. This was followed by 
an attack of rheumatism, which confined him 
about a week. His appetite now began to 
fail ; his hand shook, and his voice faltered on 
any exertion or emotion. His pulse became 
weaker and more rapid, and pain in the larger 
joints, and in the hands and feet, deprived him 
of the enjoyment of refreshing sleep. Too 
much dejected in his spirits, and too well aware 
of his real situation to entertain hopes of re- 
covery, he was ever musing on the approaching 
desolation of his family, and his spirits sunk 
into a uniform gloom. 

It was hoped by some of his friends, that 
if he could live through the months of spring, 
the succeeding season might restore him. But 
they were disappointed. The genial beams of 
the sun infused no vigour into bis languid 
frame ; the summer wind blew upon him, but 
produced no refreshment. About the latter 
end of June he was advised to go into the 
country, and impatient of medical advice, as 
well as of every species of control, he determin- 
ed for himself to try the effects of bathing in 
the sea. For this purpose he took up his resi- 
dence at Brow, in Annandale, about ten miles 
east of Dumfries, on the shore of the Solway- 

It happened that at that time a lady with 
whom be had been connected in friendship hj 
the sympathies of kindred genius, was residing, 
in the immediate neighbourhood.* Being n- 
formed of his arrival, she invited him to di. 
ner, and sent her carriage for him to the cot- 
tage where he lodged, as he was unable to walk. 
— ♦' I was struck," says this lady (in a confi- 
dential letter to a friend written soon after), 
" with his appearance on entering the room. 
The stamp of death was impressed on his 
features. He seemed already touching the 
brink of eternity. His first salutation was 
' Well, madam, have you any commands for 
the other world ?' I replied, that it seemed a 
doubtful case which of us should be there soon- 
est, and that I hoped that he would yet live to 
write mv epitaph. (I was then in a poor 
state of health. ) He looked in my face with 
an air of great kindness, and expressed his con- 
cern at seeing me look so ill, with his accus- 
tomed sensibility. At table he ate little or 
nothing, and he complained of having entirely 
lost the tone of his stomach. We had a long 
and serious conversation about his present 
situation, and the approaching termination of 
all his earthly prospects. He spoke of his 
death without any of the ostentation of philo- 
sophy, but with nrmness as well as feeling— as 
an event likely to happen very soon, and which 
gave him concern chiefly from leaving his four 
children so young and unprotected, and bis 
wife in so interesting a situation — in hourly ex- 
pectation of lying in of a fifth. He mentioned, 
with seeming pride and satisfaction, the pro- 
mising genius of bis eldest son, and the flatter- 
ing marks of approbation he had received from 
his teachers, and dwelt particularly on his hopes 
of that boy's future conduct and merit His 
anxiety for his family seemed to hang heavy 
upon him, and the more perhaps from the re- 
flection that he had not done them all the 
justice he was so well qualified to do. Pass- 
ing from this subject, he showed great concern 
about the care of his literary fame, and particu- 
larly the publication of his posthumous works. 
He said he was well aware that his death would 
occasion some noise, and that every scrap of 
his writing would be revived against him to 
the injury of his future reputation : that let- 
ters and verses written with unguarded and 
improper freedom, and which he earnestly 
wished to have buried in oblivion, would be 
handed about by idle vanity or malevolence, 
when no dread of his resentment would re- 
strain them, or prevent the censures of shrill- 
tongued malice, or the insidious sarcasms of 
envy, from pouring forth all their venom to 
blast his fame. 

** He lamented that he had written many 
epigrams on persons against whom he en- 
tertained no enmity, and whose characters he 
should be sorry to wound ; and many indiffer- 
ent poetical pieces, which he feared would 

• For a character of this lady, see p. 72. 



now, with all their imperfections on their head, 
be thrust upon the world. On this account 
he deeply regretted having deferred to put 
his papers into a state of arrangement, as lie 
was now quite incapable of the exertion."— 
The lady goes on to mention many other topics 
of a private nature on which he spoke. — 
" The conversation," she adds, ** was kept up 
with great evenness and animation on his side. 
I had seldom seen his mind greater or more col- 
lected. There was frequently a considerable 
degree of vivacity in his sallies, and they 
would probably have bad a greater share, had 
not the concern and dejection I could not dis- 
guise, damped the spirit of pleasantry he 
seemed not unwilling to indulge. 

** We parted about sun-set on the evening 
of that day (the 5th of July, 1796) ; the next 
day I saw him again, and we parted to meet 
no more !'• 

At first, Bums imagined bathing in the sea 
had been of benefit to him : the pains in his 
limbs were relieved ; but this was immediate* 
ly followed by a new attack of fever. When 
brought back to his own house in Dumfries, 
on the 1 8th of July, he was no longer able to 
stand upright. At this time a tremor per- 
vaded his frame ; his tongue was parched, and 
his mind sunk into delirium, when not roused 
by conversation. On the second and third 
day the fever increased, and his strength dimi- 
nished. On the fourth, the sufferings of this 
great, but ill-fated genius were terminated, and 
a life was closed in which virtue and passion 
had been at perpetual variance.* 

The death of Burns made a strong and 
general impression on all who had interested 
themselves in his character, and especially on 
the inhabitants of the town and county in 
which he had spent the latter years of his life. 
Flagrant as his follies and errors had been, 
they had not deprived him of the respect and 
regard entertained for the extraordinary powers 
of his genius, and the generous qualities of his 
heart. The Gentlemen- Volunteers of Dum- 
fries determined to bury their illustrious asso- 
ciate with military honours, and every prepar- 
ation was made to render this last service 
solemn and impressive. The Fencible Infan- 
try of Angus-shire, and the regiment of cavalry 
of the Cinque Ports, at that time quartered in 
Dumfries, offered their assistance on this 
occasion ; the principal inhabitants of the 
town and neighbourhood determined to walk 
in the funeral procession ; and a vast concourse 
of persons assembled, some of them from a 
considerable distance, to witness the obsequies 
of the Scottish Bard. On the evening of the 
25th of July, the remains of Burns were re- 
moved from his house to the Town- Hall, and 
the funeral took place on the succeeding day. 
A party of the volunteers, selected to perform 

• The particulars reapectinff the illness and death of 
n»rni were obligingly furnished by Dr Maxwell the 
physieisu who attended him. 

the military duty in the church-yard, stationed 
themselves in the front of the procession, with 
their arms reversed ; the main body of the 
corps surrounded and supported the coffin, on 
which were placed the hat and sword of their 
friend and fellow-soldier ; the numerous body 
of attendants ranged themselves in the rear ; 
while the Fencible regiments of infantry and 
cavalry lined the streets from the Town- Hall 
to the burial-ground in the Southern church, 
yard, a distance of more than half a mile. 
The whole procession moved forward to that 
sublime and affecting strain of music, the 
Dead March in Saul : and three vollies fired 
over his grave marked the return of Bums to 
his parent earth ! The spectacle was in a high 
degree grand and solemn, and accorded with 
the general sentiments of sympathy and sorrow 
which the occasion had called forth. 

It was an affecting circumstance, that, on 
the morning of the day of her husband's fune« 
ral, Mrs Bums was undergoing the pains of 
labour, and that during the solemn service we 
have just been describing, the posthumous son 
of our poet was bom. This infant boy, who 
received the name of Maxwell, was not destined 
to a long life. He has ahreadv become an 
inhabitant of the same grave with his celebrated 
father. The four other children of our poet, 
all sons (the eldest at that time about ten 
years of age) yet survive, and give every pro- 
mise of prudence and virtue that can be ex- 
pected from their tender years. They remain 
under the care of their affectionate mother in 
Dumfries, and are enjoying the means of edu- 
cation which the excellent schools of that town 
afford ; the teachers of which, in their conduct 
to the children of Bums, do themselves great 
honour. On this occasion, the name of Mr 
Whyte deserves to be particularly mentioned, 
himself a poet as well as a man of science. * 

Bums died in great poverty ; but the inde- 
pendence of his spirit, and the exemplary pra- 
dence of his wife, had preserved him from 
debt. He had received from bis poems a clear 
profit of about nine hundred pounds. Of this 
sum, the part expended on his library (which 
was far from extensive) and in the humble 
furniture of his house, remained ; and obliga- 
tions were found for two hundred pounds 
advanced by him to the assistance of those to 
whom he was united by the ties of blood, and still 
more by those of esteem and affection. When 
it is considered, that his expenses in Edin- 
burgh, and on his various journeys, could not 
be inconsiderable ; that his agricultural under- 
taking was unsuccessful ; that his income from 
the Excise was for some time as low as fifty, 
and never rose to above seventy pounds a-year ; 
that his family was lai'ge, and his spirit liberal 
— no one will be surprised that his circum- 
stances were so poor, or that, as his health 
decayed, his proud and feeling heart sunk under 

* The author of St Guerdon^s fVell, a poem j and of 
A Tribute to the Metnory of Burnt. 



the secret consciousness of indigence, and the 
apprehensions of absolute want. Yet poverty 
never bent the spirit of Bums to any pecuniary 
meanness. Neither chicanery nor sordidness 
ever appeared in bis conduct. He carried his 
disregard of money bo a blameable excess. 
Even in the midst of distress he bore himself 
loftily to the world, and received with a jealous 
reluctance every offer of friendly assistance. 
His printed poems had procured him great 
celebrity, and a just and fair recompense for 
the latter offsprings of his pen might have 
produced him considerable emolument. In 
the year 1765, the Editor of a London news- 
paper, high in its character for literature, and 
independence of sentiment, made a proposal 
to him that he should furnish them, once a- 
week, with an article for their poetical depart- 
ment, and receive from them a recompense of 
fifty- two guineas per annum ; an offer which 
the pride of genius disdained to accept. Yet 
he had for several years furnished, and was at 
that time furnishing, the Museum of Johnson 
with his beautiful lyrics, without fee or reward, 
and was obstinately refusing all recompense 
for his assistance to the greater work of Mr 
Thomson, which the justice and generosity of 
that gentleman was pressing upon him. 

The sense of his poverty, and of the ap- 
proaching distress of his infant family, pressed 
heavily on Burns as he lay on the bed of death. 
Yet he alluded to his indigence, at times, with 
something approaching to his wonted gaiety. 
— ** What business," said he to Dr Maxwell, 
who attended him with the utmost zeal, ♦' has 
a physician to waste his time on me ? I am a 

Soor pigeon, not worth plucking. Alis ! I 
ave not feathers enough upon me to carry me 
to my grave." And when his reason was lost 
in delirium, his ideas ran in the same melan- 
choly train; the horrors of a jail were continu- 
ally present to bis troubled imagination, and 
produced the most affecting exclamations. 

As for some months previous to his death 
he had been incapable of the duties of bis office. 
Bums had imagined that his salary was reduced 
one half, as is usual in such cases. The 
Board, however, to their honour, continued 
bis full emoluments ; and Mr Graham of 
Fintra, hearing of his illness, though unac- 
quainted with its dangerous nature, made an 
offer of his assistance towards procuring him 
the means of preserving bis health. — Whatever 
might be the faults of Burns, ingratitude was 
not of the number. — Amongst bis manuscripts, 
various proofs are found of the sense he enter- 
tained of Mr Graham's friendship, which 
delicacy towards that gentleman has induced 
us to suppress ; and on the last occasion there 
is no doubt that his heart overflowed towards 
him, though he had no longer the power of 
expressing his feelings.* 

• The letter of Mr Graham alluded to above, is dated 
on the I3tli of July, and probably arrived on the 15th. 
Burns became delirious on the 17th or 18th. and died on 
the JJlst. 

On the death of Burns, the inhabitants of 
Dumfries and its neighboiurhood opened a 
subscription for the support of his wife and 
family; and Mr Miller, Mr M'Murdo, D" 
Maxwell, and Mr Syme, gentlemen of ths 
first respectability, became trustees for the 
application of the money to its proper objects. 
The subscription was extended to other parts 
of Scotland, and of England also, particularly 
London and Liverpool. By this means a 
sum was raised amounting to seven hundred 
pounds; and thus the widow and children 
were rescued from immediate distress, and the 
most melancholy of the forebodings of Burns 
happily disappointed. It is true, this sum, 
though equal to their present support, is in- 
sufficient to secure them from future penury. 
Their hope in regard to futurity depends on 
the favourable reception of those volumes from 
the public at large, in the promoting of which 
the candour and humanity of the reader may 
induce him to lend his assistance. 

Burns, as has already been mentioned, was 
nearly five feet ten inches in height, and of a 
form that indicated agility as well as strength. 
His well-raised forehead, shaded with black 
curling hair, indicated extensive capacity. 
His eyes were large, dark, full of ardour and 
intelligence. His face was well formed j and 
his countenance uncommonly interesting and 
expressive. His mode of dressing, which was 
often slovenly, and a certain fulness and bend 
in his shoulders, characteristic of his original 
profession, disguised in some degree the natu- 
ral symmetry and elegance of his form. The 
external appearance of Burns was most strik- 
ingly indicative of the character of his mind. 
On a first view, his physiognomy had a certain 
air of coarseness, mingled, however, with an 
expression of deep penetration, and of calm 
thoughtfulness approaching to melancholy. 
There appeared in his first manner and address, 
perfect ease and self-possession, but a stern 
and almost supercilious elevation, not, indeed, 
incompatible with openness and affability, 
which, however, bespoke a mind conscious of 
superior talents. — Strangers that supposed 
themselves approaching an Ayrshire peasant, 
who could make rhymes, and to whom their 
notice was an honour, found themselves 
speedily overawed by the presence of a man 
who bore himself with dignity, and who pos- 
sessed a singular power of correcting fonvard- 
ness and of repelling intrusion. But though 
jealous of the respect due to himself. Burns 
never enforced it where he saw it was willingly 
paid ; and, though inaccessible to the ap- 
proaches of pride, he was open to every advance 
of kindness and of benevolence. Hie dark 
and haughty countenance easily relaxed into a 
look of good-will, of pity, or of tenderness ; 
and, as the various emotions succeeded each 
other in his mind, assumed with equal ease the 
expression of the broadest humour, of the 
most extravagant mirth, of the deepest melan- 
choly, or of the most sublime emotion. The 




rones of his voice happily corresponded with 
the expression of his features, and with the 
feel'ngs of his mind. When to these endow- 
rnents are added a rapid and distinct apprehen- 
sion, a most powerful understanding, and a 
happy command of language — of strenjrth as 
WfJl as brilliancy of expression— we shall be 
able to account for the extraordinary attractions 
of his conversation — for the sorcery which in 
his social parties he seemed to exert on all 
around him. In the company of women this 
sorcery was more especially apparent. Their 
presence charmed the fiend of melancholy in 
his bosom, and awoke his happiest feelings ; 
it excited the powers of his fancy, as well as 
the tenderness of his heart ; and, by restraining 
the vehemence and the exuberance of his lan- 
guage, at times gave to his manners the im- 
pression of taste, and even of elegance, which 
m the company of men they seldom possessed. 
This influence was doubtless reciprocal. A 
Scottish Lady, accustomed to the best society, 
declared with characteristic naivete, that no 
man's conversation ever carried her so com- 
pUtely off her feet as that of Burns; and an 
English Lady, familiarly acquainted with 
several of the most distinguished characters of 
the present times, assured the editor, that in 
the happiest of his social hours, there was a 
charm about Burns which she had never seen 
equalled. The charm arose not more from 
the power than the versatility of his genius. 
No languor could be felt in the society of a 
man who passed at pleasure from grave to gay^ 
irom the ludicrous to the pathetic, from the 
simple to the sublime ; who wielded all his 
faculties with equal strength and ease, and 
never failed to impress the offspring of bis 
*ancjr with the stamp of his understanding. 

This, indeed, is to represent Bums in his 
happiest phasis. In large and mixed parties, 
he was often silent and dark, sometimes fierce 
and overbearing ; he was jealous of the proud 
man's scorn, jealous to an extreme of the in. 
solence of wealth, and prone to avenge, even 
on its innocent possessor, the partiality of for- 
tune. By nature kind, brave, sincere, and in a 
smgular degree compassionate, he was on the 
other hand proud, irascible, and vindictive. 
His virtues and his failings had their origin in 
the extraordinary sensibility of his mind, ai)d 
equally partook of the chills and glows of sen- 
timent His friendships were liable to inter- 
ruption from jealousy or disgust, and his 
enmities died away under the influence of pity 
or self-accusation. His understanding was 
equal to the other powers of his mind, and his 
deliberate opinions were singulariy candid and 
just ; but, like other men of great and irregular 
genius, the opinions which he delivered in con- 
versation were often the offspring of temporary 
feelings, and widely different from the calm 
decisions of his judgment. This was not 
merely true respecting the characters of others, 
but in regard to some of the most important 
points of human speculation. 

On no subject did he give a more striking 
proof of the strength of his understanding, than 
in the correct estimate he formed of himself. 
He knew his own failings ; he predicted their 
consequence ; the melancholy foreboding was 
never long absent from his mind ; yet bis pas- 
sions carried him down the stream of error, 
and swept him over the precipice he saw di- 
rectly in his course. The fatal defect in his 
character lay in the comparative weakness of 
his volition, that superior faculty of the mind, 
which governing the conduct according to the 
dictates of the understanding, alone entitles it 
to be denominated rational; which is the 
parent of fortitude, patience, and self-denial ; 
which, by regulating and combining human 
exertions, may be said to have effected all that 
is great in the works of man, in literature, in 
science, or on the face of nature. The occu- 
pations of a poet are not calculated to strength- 
en the governing powers of the mind, or to 
weaken that sensibility which requires perpe- 
tual control, since it gives birth to the vehe- 
mence of passion as well as to the higher 
powers of imagination. Unfortunately the 
favourite occupations of genius are calculated 
to increase all its peculiarities ; to nourish that 
lofty pride, which disdains the littleness of 
prudence, and the restrictions of order; and, 
by indulgence, to increase that sensibility, 
which, in the present form of our existence, is 
scarcely compatible with peace or happiness, 
even when accompanied with the choicest gifts 
of fortune. 

It is observed by one who was a friend and 
associate of Burns,* and who has contemplated 
and explained the system of animated nature, 
that no sentient being, with mental powers 
greatly superior to those of men, could possibly 

live and be happy in th?s world " If such a 

being really existed," continues he, " his misery 
would be extreme. With senses more delicate 
and refined ; with perceptions more acute and 
penetrating; with a taste so exquisite that the 
objects around him would by no means gratify 
it ; obliged to feed on nourishment too gross 
for his frame ; he must be bom only to bo 
miserable, and the continuation of his existence 
would be utterly impossible. Even in our 
present condition, the sameness and the insipi- 
dity of objects and pursuits, the futility of 
pleasure, and the infinite sources of excruciat- 
ing pain, are supported with great difficulty by 
cultivated and refined minds. Increase our 
sensibilities, continue the same objects and 
situation, and no man could bear to live.*' 

Thus it appears, that our powers of sensa- 
tion, as well as all our other powers, are adapt- 
ed to the scene of our existence ; that they are 
limited in mercy, as well as in wisdom. 

The speculations of Mr Smellie are not to 
be considered as the dreams of a theorist ; they 
were probably founded on sad experience. 

^* f'"*'^!^^"^® **'■ PMlotophj, of Natural Hitfory, 



The being he supposes, *' with senses more de- 
licate and refined, with perceptions more acute 
and penetrating,*' is to be found in real life. 
He is of the temperament of genius, and per- 
haps a poet. Is there, then, no remedy for 
this inordinate sensibility ? Are there no means 
by which the happiness of one so constituted 
by nature may be consulted ? Perhaps it will 
be found, that regular and constant occupation, 
irksome though it may at first be, is the true 
remedy. Occupation in which the powers of 
the understanding are exercised, will diminish 
the force of external impressions, and keep the 
imagination under restraint. 

That the bent of every man's mind should 
be followed in his education and in his destina. 
tlon in life, is a maxim which has been often 
repeated, but which cannot be admitted with- 
out many restrictions. It may be generally 
true when applied to weak minds, which, being 
capable of little, must be encouraged and 
strengthened in the feeble impulses by which 
that little is produced. But where indulgent 
nature has bestowed her gifts with a liberal 
hand, the very reverse of this maxim ought fre- 
quently to be the rule of conduct. In minds of 
a higher order, the object of instruction and of 
discipline is very often to restrain rather than to 
impel ; to curb the impulses of imagination so 
that the passions also may be kept under control. * 
Hence the advantages, even in a moral point 
of view, of studies of a severe nature, which, 
while they inform the understanding, employ 
the volition, that regulating power of the mind, 
which like all our other faculties, is strength, 
ened by exercise, and on the superiority of 
which, virtue, happiness, and honourable fame, 
are wholly dependent. Hence also the ad- 
vantage of regular and constant application, 
which aids the voluntary power by the produc- 
tion of habits so necessary to the support of 
order and virtue, and so difficult to be formed 
in the temperament of genius. 

The man who is so endowed and so regu- 
lated, may pursue his course with confidence 
in almost any of the various walks of life which 
choice or accident shall open to him ; and pro- 
vided he employs the talents he has cultivated, 
may hope for such imperfect happiness, and 
such limited success, as are reasonably expect- 
ed from human exertions. 

The pre-eminence among men, which pro- 
cures personal respect, and which terminates 
in lasting reputation, is seldom or never ob- 

» Quinotilinn discusses the import«nt question, 
whetner th«* bent of the individual'» genius should be 
foiiuwed in h s education {an secundum »ui qui$que in 
genii docendus sit naturam,) chiefly, indeed, with a re- 
lerence to thf orator, but in a way that admits of very 
general application. Hi3 conclusions coincide very 
much with Ihoje of the text An vero Isocrates cum de 
Ephoro atque Theopompo sic judicttret^ ut altebi 


illo lentiore tarditatemt aut in iUo pene pracipiti conci. 
tationem arfjnvandum docendo exixtimavit f cum atte' 
intm alterius natura miscendum arbitraretur. Imbe- 
cilis tatnen ingeniis sane stc obsequendum sit, ut tantwn 
in id quo vocal natura, durantur. Ita enim, quod solum 
possunt, mc'ius efficient. — Instit. Orator, lib, ii. 9. 

tained by the excellence of a single faculty of 
mind. Experience teaches us, that it has been 
acquired by those only who have possessed 
the comprehension and the energy of general 
talents, and who have regulated their applica- 
tion, in the line which choice, or perhaps acci- 
dent may have determined, hy the dictates of 
their judgment. Imagination is supposed, and 
with justice, to be the leading faculty of the 
poet. But what poet has stood the test of 
time by the force of this single faculty ? Who 
does not see that Homer and Shakspeare ex- 
celled the rest of their species in understand* 
ing as well as in imagination *, that they were 
pre-eminent in the highest species of know- 
ledge—the knowledge of the nature and char- 
acter of man ? On the other hand, the talent 
of ratiocination is more especially requisite to 
the orator ; but no man ever obtained the 
palm of oratory, even by the highest excellence 
in this single talent, who does not perceive that 
Demosthenes and Cicero were not more happy 
in their addresses to the reason, than in their 
appeals to the passions ? They knew, that to 
excite, to agitate, and to delight, are among 
the most potent arts of persuasion ; and they 
enforced their impression on the understanding, 
by their command of all the sympathies of the 
heart. These observations might be extended 
to other walks of life. He who has the facul- 
ties fitted to excel in poetry, has the faculties 
w hich, duly governed and differently directed, 
might lead to pre-eminence in other, and as far as 
respects himself, perhaps in happier destinations. 
The talents necessary to the construction of 
an Iliad, under different discipline and applica- 
tion, might have led armies to victory, or 
kingdoms to prosperity ; might have wielded 
the thunder of eloquence, or discovered and 
enlarged the sciences that constitute the power^ 
and improve the condition of our species.* 

* The reader must not suppose it is contended that 
the same individual could have excelled in ail these di- 
rections. A certain degree of instruction and practice 
it) necessary to excellence in every one, and life is too 
short t4» admit of one roan, however great his talents, 
acquiring this in all of them. It is only asserted, that 
the same talents differently applied, miglit have sue 
ceeded in any one, though perhaps, not equally well in 
each. And, after all, this position requires certiUn limi. 
tations, wliich the reader^ candour and jndgrnent will 
supply. In supposing that a great p<»et might have 
made a j,reat oralor, the physical qunlitiea necessary 
to oratory are presupposed. In suppotiin^ that a great 
orator might have made a great poet, it is a necessary 
condition, that he shuuid have devoted h.mself to 
poetry, and that he should have acquired a profi- 
ciency in metrical numbers which by patience and 
Ktteiitinn may be acquired, though the want of it 
has entbarra^eed and chilled many of the first ef- 
forts of true poetical genius. In supposing tliat 
Homer might have led armies to victory, more indeed 
is assumed than the physical qualities of a general. To 
these must be added that hardihood of mind, that cooU 
ness in the midst of difficulty and danger, which great 
poets and orators are found oometimes, but not always, 
to possess. The nature of the institutions of Greece 
and Rome produced more instances <if single individuals 
who excelled in various departments of active and spe- 
culative life, than occur in m»»dern Europe, where the 
employments of men are snbdivided. Many of the 
greatest warriors of antiquity excelled in literature and 
in oratory. That they had the minds of great poets. 



Such talents are, indeed, rare among the pro- 
ductions of nature, and occasions of bringing 
them into full exertion are rarer still. But 
safe and salutary occupations may be found for 
men of genius in every direction, while the 
useful and ornamental arts remain to be culci- 
vated, while the sciences remain to be studied 
and to be extended, and the principles of 
science to be applied to the correction and im- 
provement of art. In the temperament of sen- 
sibility, which is in truth the temperament of 
general talents, the principal object of discip. 
line and instruction is, as has already been men- 
tioned, to strengthen the self-command ; and 
this may be promoted by the direction of the 
studies, more effectually perhaps than has been 
generally understood. 

If these observations be founded in truth, 
they may lead to practical consequences of some 
importance. It has been too much the custom 
to consider the possession of poetical talents as 
excluding the possibility of application to the 
severer branches of study, and as in some de- 
gree incapacitating the possessor from attaining 

also will be admitted, when the qualities are justly ap- 
preciated which are necessary to excite, combine, and 
command the active energies of a great iKidy of men to 
rouse tliat enthusiasm which sustains fatigue, hunger, 
and the inclemencies of the elements, and which tri- 
umpha over the fear of death, tlie most powerful iustinct 
of our nature. 

The authority of Cicero may be appealed to in favour 
of the close connection between the poet and the orator. 
Eft enim finilimun oratori poeta^ numerif adstrictior 
paufo, verborum autem Ucentia tiberior^ 8fc. De Or a. 
TOR. lib. i. c. 10. See also, lib. iii. c. 7.— It is true the 
example of Cicero may be quoted Rgiiiust his opi- 
nion. His attempts in versie, whii-ii are praised 
by Plutarch, did not meet the approbation of Juvenal, 
or of inany others. Cicero probHoly did not take aufii. 
cient time to learn the art of the poet : but that he had 
the qfflatiu necessary to poetical excellence, may be 
abundantlv proved from his compositions in prose. On 
tiie other hand, nothing is more clear, than that, in the 
character of a great poet, all the mental qualities as an 
orHtor are included. It is said by Quinctihan of Homer, 
Omnibus eloquentice partibus exemplum et ortum dedit. 
Lib. i. 47. The study of Homer is therefore recom- 
merided to the orator, as of the first importance. Of 
the two sublime poets in our own language, who are 
scarcely inferior to Homtr, Sliak-peare and Mi ton, a 
similar recommendation may be given. How much an 
acquaintance with them has avMled the great orator 
who is now the pride and ornament of the English bar, 
need not be mcntiouf d, nor need we point out by name 
a character which may be appealed lo with confidence 
when we are contending for the universality of genius. 

The identity, or at least the great similarity of the 
talents necessary to excellence in poetry, oratory, 
painting, and war, will be admitted by some, who will 
be inclined to dispute the extension of the positiim to 
science or natural knowledge. On this occasion I may 
quote the following observations of Sir William Jones, 
whose own example will, however, far exceed in 
weight the authority of his precepts. " Abul Olo had 
so flourishing a reputation, that several persons of un- 
common genius were ambitious of learning the art of 
poetry fruiu so able an instructor. His most illustrious 
scholars were Feleki and Kluikani, who were no less 
eminent for their Persian compositions, than for their 
skill in every branch of pure and mixed mathematics, 
and particularly in astronomy j a striking proof that a 
sublime poet may become master of any kind of learn, 
ing whicn he chooses to profess j since a fine imagina. 
tiou, a lively wit, an easy and copious style, cannot 
possibly obstruct the acquisition of any science what- 
ever: but must necfpsarily assist him in his studies, 
and shorten his iabnur." — Sir William 
Vol. II. p. 317 

Joneses Works, 

those habits, and from bestowing that attention, 
which are necessary to success in the details of 
business, and in the engagements of active life. 
It has been common for persons conscious of 
such talents, to look with a sort of disdain on 
other kinds of intellectual excellence, and to 
consider themselves as in some degree absolved 
from these rules of prudence by which hum- 
bler minds are restricted. They are too much 
disposed to abandon themselves to their own 
sensations, and to suffer life to pass away \inth- 
out regular exertion, or settled purpose. 

But though men of genius are generally 
prone to indolence, with them indolence and 
unhappiness are in a more especial maimer al- 
lied. The unbidden splendours of imagination 
may indeed at times irradiate the gloom which 
inactivity produces ; but such visions, though 
bright, are transient, and serve to cast the re- 
alities of life into deeper shade. In bestowing 
great talents, Nature seems very generally to 
have impcwed on the possessor the necessity of 
exertion, if he would escape wretchedness. 
Better for him than sloth, toils the most pain- 
ful, or adventures the most hazardous. Hap- 
pier to him than idleness, were the condition 
of the peasant, earning with incessant labour 
his scanty food ; or that of the sailor, though 
hanging on the yard arm, and wrestling with 
the hurricane. 

These observations might be amply illustrat- 
ed by the biography of men of genius of every 
denomination, and more especially by the bio- 
graphy of the poets. Of this last description 
of men, fey/f seem to have enjoyed the usual 
portion of happiness that falls to the lot of hu- 
manity, those excepted who have cultivated 
poetry as an elegant amusement in the hours 
of relaxation from other occupations, or the 
small number who have engaged with success 
in the greater or more arduous attempts of the 
muse, in which all the faculties of the mind 
have been fully and permanently employed. 
Even taste, virtue, and comparative independ- 
ence, do not seem capable of bestowing, on 
men of genius, peace and tranquillity, without 
such occupation as may give regular and health- 
ful exercise to the faculties of body and mind. 
The amiable Shenstone has left us the records 
of his imprudence, of his indolence, and of his 
unhappiness, amidst the shades of the Leas- 
owes ; * and the virtues, the learning, and the 
genius of Gray, equal to the loftiest attempt 
of the epic muse, failed to procure him in the 
academic bowers of Cambridge, that tranquil- 
lity and that respect which less fastidiousness 
of taste, and greater constancy and vigour of 
exertion, would have doubtless obtained. 

It is more necessary that men of genius 
should be aware of the importance of sel^com- 
mand, and of exertion, because their indolence 
is peculiarly exposed, nolj merely to unhappi. 
ness, but to diseases of mind, and to errors of 

* See his letters, which, as a display of the efiects of 
pootual idleness, are highly instrurtivi. 



conduct, which are generally fatal. This inter- 
esting subject deserves a particular investiga. 
tion : but we must content ourselves with one 
or two cursory renoarks. Relief is sometimes 
sought from the melancholy of indolence in 
practices, which for a time soothe and gratify 
the sensations, but which in the end involve 
the sufferer in darker gloom. To command 
the external circumstances by which happiness 
is affected, is not in human power : but there 
are various substances in nature which operate 
on the system of the nerves, so as to give a 
fictitious gaiety to the ideas of imagination, and 
to alter the effect of the external impressions 
which we receive. Opium is chiefly employed 
for this purpose by the disciples of Mahomet, 
and the inhabitants of Asia ; but alcohol, the 
principle of intoxication in vinous and spiritu- 
ous liquors, is preferred in Europe, and is uni- 
versally used in the Christian world.* Under 
the various wounds to which indolent sensibil- 
ity is exposed, and under the gloomy appre- 
hensions respecting futurity to which it is so 
often a prey, how strong is the temptation to 
have recoiirse to an antidote by which the pain 
of these wounds is suspended, by which the 
heart is exhilarated, ideas of hope and of hap- 
piness are excited in the mind, and the forms 
of external nature clothed with new beuuty ! — 

El}sium opens round, 
A pleasing frenzy buoys the lighten'd soul. 
And sjujguinc hopes dispel your fleeting care; 
And what was difficult, unci what was dire, 
Yields to your prowess, and superior stars : 
The happiest of you all that e'er were mad. 
Or are, or shall be, could tiiis folly last. 
But soon your heaven is gone; aheaviergloom 
Shuts o'er your head 

« There are a groat number of other substances which 
may be cunsidered under this point of view — Tobacco, 
tea, and coffe»«, are of the number. These nubt^tances 
essentially differ from each other in their qaaiities : and 
an inquiry into tlie particular effects of^ each on the 
health, moraU, and happiness, of tho»c who use them, 
would be curious and useful. The effects of wine and 
of opium on the temperament of sensibility, the Edit«»r 
intended to have discu'-^d in this place at Sf>me length ; 
but he found the subject too professional to be intro. 
duced with propri^-ty. The dimctilty of abandoning 
any of these narcotics (if we may so term them.) when 
Inclination is strengthened by habit, is well known. 
Johnson, In his distresses, had experienced thecheeriri|T 
but treacherous influence of wine, and by a powerful 
effort, abandoned it He was obliged, however, to iuu» 
tea as a substitute, and this was tlie solace to wiiich he 
constantly had recourse under his habitual melancholy. 
Tl»e praises of wine foTm many of the most beautiful 
lyrica of the poets of Greece and Rome, and modem 
Lurope. Whether opium, which produces visions still 
more ecstatic, has been tlie theme of the ea.stern poets, I 
do not know. Wine is taken in small doses at a time, in 
compaiiv, where, for a time^ it promotes harmony atid 
H>cial sirfection. Opium is swallowed by the Asiatics in 
full doses at once, and the inebrinte retires to the soli- 
tary indulgence of his delirious ima^nations. Hence 
the wine-drinker appears iu a superior light to the iin. 
biber of opium, a aii^tinction whlrh ho owes more t<i 
the /bnrt, than to the quaUttf of his liquor. 

Morning comes ; your cares return 

With tenfold rage. An anxious stomach well 
May be endured : so may the throbbing head : 
Hut such a dim delirium, such a dream 
Involves you ; such a dastardly despair 
Unmans your soul, as madd'ning Pentheus ftlt. 
When baited round Cithaeron's cruel sides. 
He saw two suns and double '1 hebes ascend. 
ABMSTnoNG*s Art of Preserving Heallh^h. iv. 1. 103. 

Such are the pleasures and the pains of in- 
toxication, as they occur in the temperament of 
sensibility, described by a genuine poet, with a 
degree of truth and energy which nothing but 
experience could have dictated. There are, 
indeed, some individuals of this temperament 
on whom wine produces no cheering influence. 
On some, even in very moderate quantities, 
its effects are painfully irritating; in large 
doses it excites dark and melancholy ideas ; 
and in doses still larger, the fierceness of in- 
sanity itself. Such men are happily exempted 
from a temptation, to which experience teaches 
us the finest dispositions ofttn yield, and the 
influence of which, when strengthened by habit, 
it is a humiliating truth, that the most powerful 
minds have not been able to resist. 

It is the more necessary for men of genius 
to be on their guard againi^t the habitual ui-e of 
wine, because it is apt to steal on them insen- 
sibly; and because the temptation to excess 
usually presents itself to them in their social 
hours, when they are alive only to warm and 
generous emotions, and when prudence and 
moderation are often contemned as selfishness 
and timidity. 

It is the more necessary for them to guard 
against excess in the use of wine, because on 
them its effects are physically and morally, in 
an especial manner, irtjurious. In proportion 
to its stimulating influence on the system (on 
which the pleasurable sensations depend), is 
the debility that ensues ; a debility that destroys 
digestion, and terminates in habitual fever, 
dropsy, jaundice, paralysis, or insanity^ As the 
strength of the body decays, the volition fails ; 
in proportion as the sensations are soothed and 
gratified, the sensibility increases ; and morbid 
sensibility is the parent of indolence, because, 
while it impairs the regulating power of the 
mind, it exaggerates all the obstacles to exertion. 
Activity, perseverance, and self-command, be- 
come more and more difficult, and the great 
purposes of utility, patriotism, or of honourable 
ambition, which had occupied the imagination, 
die away in fruitless resolutions, or in feeble 

To apply these observations to the subject 
of our memoirs, would be a useless as well as a 
painful task. It is, indeed, a duty we owe to 
the living, not to allow our admiration of great 
genius, or even our pity for its unhappy des- 
tiny, to conceal or disguise its errors. But 
there are sentiments of respect, and even of 
tenderness, with which this duty should be 
performed ; there is an awful sanctity which 
invests the mansions of the dead ; and let 



those wbo moralize over the graves of their 
contemporaries, reflect with humility on their 
own errors, nor forget bow soon they may 
themselves require the candour and the sym- 
pathy they are called upon to bestow. 

Soon after the death of Bui*ns, the following 
article appeared in the Dumfries Journal, from 
which it is copied into the Edinburgh news- 
papers, and into various other periodical pub- 
lications. It is from the elegant pen of a lady 
already alluded to in the course of these me- 
nioirs,* whose exertions for the family of 
our bard, in the circles of literature and fashion 
in which she moves, have done her so much 

" It is not probable that the late mournful 
event, which is likely to be felt severely in the 
literary world, as well as in the circle of pri. 
vate friendship which surrounded our admired 
poet, should be unattended with the usual pro- 
fusion of posthumous anecdotes, memoirs, &c. 
that commonly spring up at the death of every 
rare and celebrated personage. I vhall not at- 
tempt to enlist with the numerous corps of bio- 
graphers, who, it is prob'ible, mav without 
possessing his genius, arrogate to themselves 
the privilege of criticising the character or 
writings of Mr liurns. * The inspiring man- 
tle ' thrown over him by that tutelarly muse 
wbo first found him, like the prophet Elisha, 
* at his plough 't has been the portion of few, 
may be the portion of fewer still ; and if it is 
true that men of genius have a claim in their 
literary capacities to the legal right of the Bri- 
tish citizen in a court of justice, that of being 
tried ofdy by his peer 8^ (I borrow here an ex- 
pression I have tr( quently heard Bums himself 
make use of,) God forbid I should, any more 
than the generality of other people, assume the 
flattering and peculiar privilege of sitting upon 
his jury. But the intimacy of our ac(|uaintance 
for several years past, may perhaps justify my 
presenting to the public a few of those ideas 
and observations I have had the opportunity 
of formir)g, and which, to the day that closed 
for ever the scene of his happy qualities and of 
his errors, I have never had the smallest cause 
to deviate in, or to recall. 

" It will be the misfortune of Burns' reputa. 
tion, in the records of literature, not only to 
future generations and to foreign countries, but 
even with his native Scotland and a number of 
his contemporaries, that he has been regarded 
as a poet, and nothing but a poet. It must 
not be supposed that I consider this title as a 

• Seo p. Ixix. 

t " The ^oftic genius of my country found me, as 
the prophetic bard Elij.«h did Elishii— at the Plough ; 
and threw her inspiring mantle over me. She bade me 
•in^ the loves, the juvh, the rural scenes and rural plea- 
Bure of my native soil, io my native tongue,*' &c — — 
liurnu* Prefatory Adarest to the Kobfemcn and Gentfe. 
mien of the Citledonian Hunt 

trivial one : no person can be more penetrated 
with the respect due to the wreath bestowed 
by the muses than myself; and much certainly 
is due to the merit of a self taught bard, de- 
prived of the advantages of a classical educt' 
tion, and the intercourse of minds congenial 
to his own, till that period of life, when 
his native fire had already blazed forth in all 
its wild graces of genuine simplicity and en- 
ergetic eloquence of sentiment. But the fact 
is, that even when all his honours are yielded 
to him, Burns will perhaps be found to move 
in a sphere less splendid, less dignified, 
and, even in his own pastoral style, less attrac- 
tive, than several other writers have done ; and 
that poetry was (I appeal to all who had the 
advantage of being personally acquainted with 
him) actually not his forte. If others have 
climbed more successfully to the heights of Par- 
nassus, none certainly ever out-shone Bums in 
the charms — the sorcery I would almost call 
it, of fascinating conversation ; the spontaneous 
eloquence of social argument, or the unstudied 
poignancy of brilliant repartee. His personal 
endowments were perfectljr correspondent with 
the qualifications of his mind, {lis form was 
manly; his action energy itself; devoid, in a 
great measure, however, of those graces, of that 
polish, acquired only in the refinement of so- 
cieties, where in early life he had not the op- 
portunity to mix; but where, such was the 
irresistible power of attraction that encircled 
him, though his appearance and manners were 
always peculiar, he never failed to delight and 
to excel. His figure certainly bore the authen- 
tic impress of his birth and original station in 
life ; it seemed rather moulded by nature for 
the rough exercise of agriculture, than the 
gentler cultivation of the beOes lettres. His 
features were stamped with the hardy charac- 
ter of independence, and the firmness of con- 
scious, though not arrogant pre-eminence. I 
believe no man was ever gifted with a larger 
portion of the vivida via animi : the animated 
expressions of his countenance were almost pe- 
culiar to himself. The rapid lightnings of his 
eye were always the harbingers of some flash 
of genius, whether they darted the fiery glances 
of insulted and indignant superiority, or beamed 
with the impassioned sentiment ot fervent and 
impetuous afiTections. His voice alone could 
improve upon the magic of his eye ; sonorous, 
replete with the finest modulations, it alter- 
nately captivated the ear with the melody of 
poetic numbers, the perspicuity of nervous 
reasoning, or the ardent sallies of enthusiastic 
patriotism. The keenness of satire was, (I 
am almost at a loss whether to say hhjbrte or 
his foible;) for though nature had endowed 
him with a portion of the most pointed excel- 
lence in that * perilous gift,' he sufifered it too 
often to be the vehicle of personal, and some- 
times unfounded animosities. It was not only 
that sportiveness of humour, that 'unwary 
pleasantry,' which Sterne has described to us 
with touches so conciliatory ; but the darts of 



ridicule were frequently directed as the caprice 
of the instant suggested, or the altercations of 
parties or of persons happened to kindle the 
restlessness of his spirit into -interest or aver- 
sion. This was not however, unexceptionably 
the case, his wit (which is no unusual matter 
indeed) had always the start of his judgment, 
and would lead him to the indulgence of raillery 
uniformly acute, but often unaccompanied by 
the least desire to wound. The suppression 
of an arch and full pointed bon mot, from the 
dread of injuring its object, the sage of Zurich 
very properly classes as a virtue ' only to be 
sought for in the calendar of saints/ if so, 
Burns must not be dealt with unconscieiitiously 
for being rather deficient in it. He paid the 
forfeit of his talents as dearly as any one could 
do. ' 'Twas no extravagant arithmetic to say 
of him. as of Yorick, that for every ten jokes 
he got a hundred enemies;' and much allow- 
ance should be made by a candid mind for the 
splenetic warmth of a spirit * which distress 
had often spited with the world,' and which, 
unbounded in its intellectual sallies and pur- 
suits, continually experienced the curbs imposed 
by the waywaidness of his fortune. The viva- 
city of his wishes and temper was indeed 
checked by constant disappointments, which 
sat heavy on a heart that acknowledged the 
ruling passion of independence, without having 
ever been placed beyond the grasp of penury. 
His soul was never languid or inactive, and his 
genius was extinguished only with the last 
sparks of retreating life. His passions render- 
ed him, according as they disclosed themselves 
in affection or antipathy, the object of enthusi- 
astic attachment, or of decided enmity; for he 
possessed none of that negative insipidity of 
character, whose love might be regarded with 
indifference, or whose resentment could be 
considered with contempt. In this it should 
seem the temper of his companions took the 
tincture from his own ; for he acknowledged 
in the universe but two classes of objects, those 
of adoration the most fervent, or of aversion 
the most uncontrollable ; and it has been fre- 
quently asserted of him, that unsusceptible of 
indifference, often hating where he ought to 
have despised, he alternately opened his heart, 
and poured forth all the treasures of his un- 
derstanding to such as were incapable of appre- 
ciating the homage, and elevated to the privile- 
ges of an adversary, some who were unqualified 
in talents, or by nature, for the honour of a 
contest so distinguished. 

" Jt is said that the celebrated Dr Johnson 
professed to ' love a good hater,' — a tempera- 
ment that had singularly adapted him to cher- 
ish a prepossession in favour of our bard, who 
perhaps fell little short even of the surly Doc- 
tor in this qualification, as long as the disposi- 
tion to ill-will continued ; but the fervour of 
his passions was fortunately tempered by their 
versatility. He was seldom, never indeed im- 
placable in his resentments, and sometimes, it 
has been alleged, not irnnolably steady in his 

engagements of friendship. Much indeed has 
been said of his inconstancy and caprices but 
I am inclined to believe, they originated less 
from a levity of sentiment, than from an im- 
petuosity of feeling, that rendered him prompt 
to take umbrage ; and his sensations of pique, 
where he fancied he had discovered the traces 
of unkindness, scorn, or neglect, took their 
measure of asperity from the overflowings of 
the opposite sentiment which preceded them, 
and which tieldom failed to regain its ascenden- 
cy in his bosom on the return of calmer reflec- 
tion. He was candid and manly in the avowal 
of his errors, and his avowal was a reparation. 
His native Ji^te never forsaking him a mo- 
ment, the value of a frank acknowledgment 
was enhanced tenfold towards a generous mind, 
from its never being attended with servility. 
His mind, organized only for the stronger and 
more acute operation of the passions, was im- 
practicable to the efforts of superciliousness 
that would have depressed it into humility, 
and equally superior to the encroachments of 
venal suggestions that might have led him into 
the mazes of hypocrisy. 

" It has been observed, that he was far from 
averse to the incense of flattery, and could re- 
ceive it tempered with less delicacy than might 
have been expected, as he seldom transgressed 
in tiiat way himself; where he paid a compli- 
ment, it might indeed claim the power of in- 
toxication, as approbation from him was always 
an honest tribute from the warmth and sincerity 
of his heart. It has been sometimes repre- 
sented by those who it should seem had a view 
to detract from, though they could not hope 
wholly to obscure that native brilliancy, which 
the powers of this extraordinary man had in- 
variably bestowed on every thing that came 
from his lips or pen, that the history of the 
Ayrshire ploughboy was an ingenious fiction, 
fabricated for the purposes of obtaining the in- 
terests of the great, and enhancing the merits 
of what in reality required no foil. The Cot- 
ter's Saturday Night, Tam o* Shanter, and the 
Mountain Daisy, besides a number of later 
productions, where the maturity of his genius 
will be readily traced, and which will be given 
the public as soon as his friends have collected 
and arranged them, speak sufficiently for them- 
selves ; and had they fallen from a hand more 
dignified in the ranks of society than that of a 
peasant, they had perhaps bestowed as unusual 
a grace there, as even in the humbler shade of 
lustic inspiration from whence they really 

*' To the obscure scene of Bums's education, 
and to the laborious, though honourable sta- 
tion of rural industry, in which his parentage 
enrolled him, almost every inhabitant in the 
south of Scotland can give testimony. His 
only surviving brother, Gilbert Burns, now 
guides the ploughshare of his forefathers in 
Ayrshire, at a small farm near Mauchline ;« 

* This very respertable and vory superior man is now 
removed to Dumfritfa-shire. He rt?nta lands on th») 



and our poet's eldest son^ (a lad of nine years 
of age, whose early dispositions already prove 
him to be the inheritor of bis father's talents as 
well as indigence,) has been destined bv his 
family to the humble employments of the 

*< That Bums had received no classical edu- 
cation, and was acquainted with the Greek and 
Roman authors only through the medium of 
translations, is a fact that can be indisputably 
proven. I have seldom seen him at a loss in 
conversation, unless where the dead languages 
and their writers were the subjects of discus- 
sion. When I have pressed him to tell me 
why he never took pains to acquire the Latin, 
in particular, a language which his happy me- 
mory had fio soon enabled him to be master of, 
he used only to reply with a smile, that he 
already knew all the Latin he desired to learn, 
and that was, omnia vincit amor ; a phrase, that 
from his writings and most favourite pursuits, 
it should undoubtedly seem be was most 
thoroughly versed in ; but I really believe his 
classical erudition extended little, if any, 

" The penchant Mr Bums had uniformly 
acknowledged for the festive pleasures of the 
table, and towards the fairer and softer objects 
of nature's creation, has been the rallying point 
where the attacks of his censors, both pious 
and moral, have been directed; and to these, 
it must be confessed, he showed himself no 
stoic. His poetical pieces blend with alternate 
happiness of description, the frolic spirit of \ 
the joy-inspiring bowl, or melt the heart to the 
tender and impassioned sentiments in which 
beauty always taught him to pour fortb his 
own. But who would wish to reprove the 
failings he has consecrated with such lively 
touches of nature ? And where is tbe rugged 
moralist who will persuade us so far to * chill 
the genial current of the soul,' as to regret that 
Ovid ever celebrated his Corinna, or that 
Anacreon sung beneath his vine ? 

" I will not, however, undertake to be the 
apologist of the irregularities, even of a man 
of genius, though I believe it is certainly un- 
derstood that genius never was free of irregu- 
larities, as that their absolution may in a great 
measure be justly claimed, since it is certain 
that the world had continued very stationary 
in its intellectual acquirements, bad it never 
given birth to any but men of plain sense. 
Evenness of conduct, and a due regard to the 
decorums of the world, have been so rarely 
seen to move hand in hand with genius, that 
some have gone as far as to say, though there 
I caiuiot acquiesce, that they are even incom- 
patible ; besides, the frailties that cast their 
shade over superior merit, are more conspicu- 
ously glaring, than where they are the attend- 
ants of mere mediocrity : it is only on the gem 
we are disturbed to see the dust ; the pebble 

entAtp of Cluseburn, and is a tenant of the venerable Dr 

• This destinatiuii is now altered. 

may be soiled, and we never mind it. Tbe 
eccentric intuitions of genius, too often yield 
the soul to the wild enervescence of desires, 
always unbounded, and sometimes equally 
dangerous to the repose of others as fatal to its 
own. No wonder then if virtue herself be 
sometimes lost in the blaze of kindling anima- 
tion, or that tbe calm monitions of reason were 
not found sufficient to fetter an imagination, 
which scorned the narrow limits and restrictions 
that would chain it to the level of ordinary 
minds. The child of nature, the child of sen- 
sibility, unbroke to the refrigerative precepts of 
philosophy, untaught always to vanquish tbe 
passions which were the only source of his 
frequent errors, Burns makes his own artless 
apology in terms more forcible, than all the 
argumentatory vindications in the world could 
do, in one of his poems, where he delineates, 
with his usual simplicity, the progress of his 
mind, and its first expansion to the lessons of 
the tutelary rouse. 

* I saw thy pulse's maddening play, 
Wild send thee Pleasure's devious way. 
Misled by Fancy's meteor ray, 

By Passion driven ; 
But yet the light that led astray. 

Was light from Heav'n.** 

« I have already transgressed far beyond the 
bounds I bad proposed to myself, on first 
committing to paper these sketches, which 
comprehend what at least I have been led to 
deem the leading features of Burns's mind and 
character. A critique, either literary or moral, 
I do not aim at ; mine is wholly fulfilled, if in 
tliese paragraphs.! have been able to delineate 
any of those strong traits that distinguished 
him, of those talents which raised him from 
the plough, where he passed the bleak morn- 
ing of his life, weaving his rude wreaths of 
poesy with the wild field. flowers that sprung 
round his cottagef to that enviable eminence 
of literary fame, where Scotland will long 
cherish bis memory with delight and gratitude ; 
and proudly remember, that beneath her cold 
sky, a genius was ripened without care or cul- 
ture, that would have done honour to the 
genial temperature of climes better adapted to 
cherishing its germs; to the perfecting of 
those luxuriances, that warmth of fancy and 
colouring, in which he so eminently excelled. 

*• From several paragraphs I have noticed in 
the public prints, even since the idea of send- 
ing these thither was formed, I find private 
animosities are not yet subsided, and envy has 
not yet done her part. I still trust that honest 
fame will be affixed to Burns's reputation, 
which he will be found to have merited by tbe 
candid of his countrymen ; and where a kin- 
dred bosom is found that has been taught to 
glow with the fires that animated Bums, 
should a recollection of the impmdences that 

* Page 110. 



sullied his brighter qualifications interpose^ let 
him remember at the same time the imperfec- 
tion of all human excellence ; and leave those 
inconsistencies which alternately exalted his 
nature to the seraph, and sunk it again into 
the man, to the tribunal which alone can inves. 
tigate the labyrinths of the human heart — 

* Where tiiey alike in trembling hope repose; — 
The bosum of his father, and his Ciocl.' 

Grav's Elegy. 

*• Annandale, Aug. 7, 1796." 

After this account of the life and personal 
character of Burns, it may be expected that 
some inquiry should be made into his literary 
merits. It will not however be necessary to 
enter very minutely into this investigation. 
If fiction be, as some suppose, the soul of 
poetry, no one had ever less pretensions to the 
name of poet than Burns. Though he has 
displayed great powers of imagiimtion, yet the 
subjects on which he has written, are seldom, 
if ever, imaginary ; his poems, as well as his 
letters, may be considered as the effusions of 
his sensibility, and the transcript of his own 
musings on the real incidents of his humble 
life. If we add, that they also contain most 
happy delineations of the characters, m.inners, 
and scenery that presented themselves to his 
observation, we shall include almost all the 
subjects of his muse. His writings may 
therefore be regarded as affording a great part 
of the data on which our account of his per- 
sonal character has been founded ; and most 
of the observations we have applied to the 
man, are applicable, with little variation, to 
the poet. 

The impression of his birth, and of his ori- 
ginal station in life, was not more evident on 
his form and manners, than on his poetical 
productions. The incidents which form the 
subjects of his poems, though some of them 
highly interesting, and susceptible of poetical 
imagery, are incidents in the life of a peasant 
who takes no pains to disguise the lowliness 
of his condition, or to throw into shade the 
circumstances attending it, which more feeble 
or more artificial minds would have endeavour- 
ed to conceal. The same rudeness and inat- 
tention appears in the formation of his rhymes, 
which are frequently incorrect, while the 
measure in which many of the poems are 
written has little of the pomp or harmony of 
modem versification, and is indeed, to an 
English ear, strange and uncouth. The 
greater part of his earlier poems are written in 
the dialect of his country, which is obscure, if 
not unintelligible to Englishmen, and which, 
though it still adheres more or less to the 
speech of almost every Scotchman, all the 
polite and the ambitious are now endeavouring 
to banish from their tongues as well as their 
writings. The use of it in composition na- 

turally therefore calls up ideas of vulgarity in 
the mind. These singularities are iricreased 
by the character of the poet, who delights to 
express himself with a simplicity that ap- 
proaches to nakedness, and with an unmeasured 
energy that often alarms delicacy, and some- 
times offends taste. Hence, in approaching 
him, the first impression is perhaps repulsive : 
there is an air of coarseness about him, which 
is difficultly reconciled with our established 
notions of poetical excellence. 

As the reader, however, becomes better 
acquainted with the poet, the effects of his 
peculiarities lessen. He perceives in his 
poems, even on the lowest subjects, expressions 
of sentiment, and delineations of manners, 
which are highly interesting. The scenery he 
describes is evidently taken from real life ; the 
characters he introduces, and the incidents he 
relates, have the impression of nature and 
truth. His humour, though wild and un 
bridled, is irresistibly amusing, and is some- 
times heightened in its effects by the introduc- 
tion of emotions of tenderness, with which 
genuine humour so happily unites. Nor is 
this the extent of his power. The reader, as 
he examines farther, discovers that the poet is 
not confined to the descriptive, the humorous, 
or the pathetic: he is found, as occasion offers, 
to rise with ease into the terrible and the 
sublime. Every where he appears devoid of 
artifice, performing what he attempts with 
little apparent effort ; and impressing on the 
offspring of his fancy the stamp of his under- 
standing. The reader, capable of forming a 
just estimate of poetical talents, discovers in 
these circumstances marks of uncommon 
genius, and is willing to investigate more 
minutely its nature and its claim to originality. 
This last point we shall examine first. 

That Burns had not the advantages of a 
classical education, or of any degree of ac- 
quaintance with the Greek or Roman writers 
in their original dress, has appeared in the 
history of his life. He acquired, indeed, some 
knowledge of the French language, but it does 
not appear that he was ever much conversant 
in French literature, nor is there any evidence 
of his having derived any of his poetical stories 
from that source. With the English classics 
he became well acquainted in the course of his 
life, and the effects of this acquaintance are 
observable in his latter productions ; but the 
character and style of his poetry were formed 
very early, and the model which he followed, 
in as far as he can be said to have bad one, is 
to be sought for in the works of the poets 
who have written in the Scottish dialect — in 
the works of such of them more especially, as 
are familiar to the peasantry of Scotland. 
Some observations on these may form a pro- 
per introduction to a more particular examina- 
tion of the poetry of Burns. The studies of 
the editor in this direction are indeed very 
recent and very imperfect. It would have 
been imprudent for him to have entered on 



this subject at all, but for tbe kindness of Mr 
Ramsay of Ochtertyre, whose assistance he is 
proud to acknowledge, and to whom the reader 
must ascribe whatever is of any value in the 
following imperfect sketch of literary compo> 
sitions in tbe Scottish idiom. 

It is a circumstance not a little curious, and 
which does not seem to be satisfactorily ex- 
plained, that in the thirteenth century, the 
lanpiiage of the two British nations, if at all 
different, differed only in dialect, the Gaelic in 
the one, like the Welch and Armoric in the 
other, being confined to the mountainous dis- 
tricts.* The English under the Edwards, and 
the Scots under Wallace and Bruce, spoke the 
same language. We may observe also, that in 
Scotland the history ascends to a period nearly 
as remote as in England. Barbour and Blind 
Harry, James the First, Dunbar, Douglas, and 
Lindsay, who lived in the fourteenth, fifteenth, 
and sixteenth centuries, were coeval with the 
fathers of poetry in England; and in the 
opinion of Mr Wharton, not inferior to them 
in genius or in composition. Though the 
language of the two countries gradually devi- 
ated from each other during this period, yet 
the difference on the whole was not considera- 
ble ; nor perhaps greater than between the 
different dialects of the different parts of Eng- 
land in our own time. 

At the death of James the Fifth, in 1542, 
the language of Scotland was in a flourishing 
condition, wanting only writers in prose equal 
to those in verse. Two circumstances, pro- 
pitious on the whole, operated to prevent this. 
The first was the passion of the Scots for 
composition in Latin ; and the second, the 
accession of James the Sixth to the English 
throne. It may easily be imagined, that if 
Buchanan had devoted his admirable talents, 
even in part, to the cultivation of his native 
tongue, as was done by the revivers of letters 
in Italy, he would have left compositions in 
that language which might have excited other 
men of genius to have followed his example,f 
and given duration to the language itself. The 
union of the two crowns in the person of 
James, overthrew all reasonable expectation of 
this kind. That monarch, seated on the 
English throne, would no longer be addressed 
in the rude dialect in which the Scottish 
clergy had so often insulted his dignity. He 
encouraged Latin or English only, both of 
which he prided himself on writing with purity, 
though he himself never could acquire the 
English pronunciation, but spoke with a Scot- 
tish idiom and intonation to the last. Scots- 
men of talents declined writing in their native 
language, which they knew was not acceptable 
to their learned and pedantic monarch ; and at 
a time when national prejudice and enmity 

* Historical Euays oh Scottish Song. p. 20, by Mr 

t «. g' The Authors of the DeUcice Poetarum Scoto- 
rumt Sfo. 

prevailed to a great degre?, they disdained to 
study the niceties ot the English tongue, 
though of so much easier acquisition than a 
dead language. Lord Stirling and Drumroond 
of Hawthorriden, the only Scotsmen who 
wrote poetry in those times, were exceptions. 
They studied the language of England, and 
composed in it with precision and elegance. 
They were how.-ver the last of their country, 
men who deserved to be considered as poets 
in that century. The muses of Scotland sunk 
into silence, and did not again raise their voices 
for a period of eighty years. 

To what causes are we to attribute this ex. 
treme depression among a people comparatively 
learned, enterprising, and ingenious? Shall 
we impure it to the fanaticism of the coven- 
aiiters, or to the tyranny of the house of Stuart 
after their restoration to the throne? Doubt- 
less these causes operated, but they seem un- 
equal to account for the effect. In England, 
sinilar distractions and oppressions took place, 
yet poetry flourished there in a remarkable 
degree. During this period, Cowley, and 
Waller, and Dryden sung, and Milton raised 
his strain of unparalleled grandeur. To the 
causes already mentioned, another must be 
added, in accounting for the torpor of Scottish 
literature— the want of a projier vehicle for 
rraen of genius to employ. The civil wars had 
frij-htened away tbe Latin muses, and no 
stiudard had been established of the Scottish 
tongue, which was deviating still farther from 
the pure English idiom. 

The revival of literature in Scotland may 
be dared from the establishment of the union, 
or rather from the extinction of the rebellion 
in 17J5. The nations being finally incorpo- 
rated, it was clearly seen that their tongues 
must in the end incorporate also ; or rather in- 
deed that the Scottish language must degener- 
ate into a provincial idiom, to be avoided by 
those who would aim at distinction in letters, 
or rise to eminence in the united legislature. 

Soon after this, a band of men of genius ap- 
peared, who studied the English classics, and 
imitated their beauties, in the same manner 
as they studied the classics of Greece and 
Rome. They had admirable models of com- 
position lately presented to them by the 
writers of the reign of Queen Anne ; particu- 
larly in the periodical papers published by 
Steele, Addison, and their associated friends, 
which circulated widely through Scotland, and 
diffused every where a taste for purity of style 
and sentiment, and for critical disquisition. 
At length, the Scottish writera succeeded in 
English composition, and a union was formed 
of the literary talents, as well as of the legisla- 
tures of the two nations. On this occasion 
the poets took the lead. While Henry Home,* 
Dr Wallace, and their learned associates, 
were only laying in their intellectual stores, 
and studying to clear themselves of their Scot- 

t Lord Kaims. 



tibb idioms, Thomson, Mallet, and Hamilton 
of Bangour, had made their appearance before 
Che public, and been enrolled on the list of , 
English poets. The writers in prose follow- I 
vd — a numerous and powerful band, and | 
poured their ample stores into the general 
Mream of British literature. Scotland pos. 
sessed her four uiiiversities before the acces- 
sion of James to the English throne. Im- 
mediately before the union, she acquired her 
parochiiil f.chools. These establishments com- 
bining happily together, made the elements of 
knowledge of easy acquisition, and presented 
a direct path, by which the ardent student 
might be carried along into the recesses of 
science or learning. As civil broils ceased, 
and faction and prejudice gradually died away, 
a wider field was opened to literary ambition, 
and the influence of the Scottish institutions 
for instruction, on the productions of the press, 
became more and more apparent. 

It seems indeed probable, that the establish- 
ment of the parochial schools produced effects 
on the rural muse of Scotland also, which have 
not hitherto been suspected, and which, though 
less splendid in their nature, are not however 
to be regarded as trivial, whether we consider 
the happiness or the morals of the people. 

There is some reason to believe, that the 
original inhabitants of the British isles pos- 
sessed a peculiar and interesting species of 
music, which being banished from the plains 
by the successive invasions of the Saxons, 
Danes, and Normans, was preserved with 
the native race, in the wilds of Ireland and 
in the mountains of Scotland and Wales. 
The Irish, the Scottish, and the Welsh music, 
differ indeed from each other, but the differ- 
ence may be considered as in dialect only, and 
probably produced by the influence of time, 
like the different dialects of their common 
language. If this conjecture be true, the Scot- 
tish music must be more immediately of a 
Highland origin, and the Lowland tunes, 
though now of a character somewhat distinct, 
must have descended from the mountains in 
remote ages. Whatever credit may be given 
to conjf-otures, evidently involved in great un- 
certainty, there can be no doubt that the 
Scottish peasantry have been long in posses- 
sion of a number of songs and ballads com- 
posed in their native dialect, and sung to 
their native music. The subjects of tnese 
compositions were such as most interested 
the simple inhabitants, and in the succession of 
time varied probably as the condition of society 
varied, louring the separation and the hos- 
tility of the two nations, these songs and 
ballads, as far as our imperfect documents 
enable us to judge, were chiefly warlike ; such 
as the Hunt is of Cheviot^ and the Battle of 
Harlauj, After the union of the two crowns, 
vyhen a certain degree of peace and tranquil- 
lity took place, the rural muse of Scotland 
breathed in softer accents. ** In the want of 
real evidence respecting the history of our 

songs," says Ramsa)r of Ochtertyre, " recourse 
may be had to conjecture. One would be 
disposed to think, that the most beautiful of 
the Scottish tunes were clothed with new 
words after the union of the crowns. The 
inhabitants of the borders, who had formerly 
been warriors from choice, and husbandmen 
from necessity, either quitted the country, or 
were transformed into real shepherds, easy in 
their circumstances, and satisfied with their 
lot. Some sparks of that spirit of chivalry 
for which they are celebrated by Froissurt, re- 
mained sufficient to inspire elevation of senti- 
ment and gallantry towards the fair sex. The 
familiarity and kindness which had long sub- 
sisted between the gentry and the peasantry, 
couid not all at once be obliterated, and this 
connexion tended to sweeten rural life. In 
this state of innocence, ease, and tranquillity 
of mind, the love of poetry and music would 
still maintain its ground, though it would na- 
turally assume a form congenial to the more 
peaceful state of society. The minstrels, whose 
metrical tales used once to rouse the borderers 
like the trumpet's sound, had been, by an order 
of the Legislature (1579), classed with rogues 
and vagabonds, and attempted to be suppressed. 
Knox and his disciples influenced the Scottish 
parliament, but contended in vain with her 
rural muse. Amidst our Arcadian vales, pro- 
bably on the banks of the Tweed, or some of 
its tributary streams, one or more original ge- 
niuses mayhave arisen who were destined to give 
a new turn to the taste of their countrymen. 
They would see that the events and pursuits 
which chequer private life were the proper sub- 
jects for popular poetry. Love, which bad for- 
merly held a divided sway with glory and 
ambition, became now the master-passion of 
the soul. To portray in lively and delicate 
colours, though with a hasty hand, the hopes 
and fears that agitate the breast of the love- sick 
swain, or forlorn maiden, afford ample scope to 
the rural poet. Love-songs, of which Tibullus 
himself would not have been ashamed, might 
be composed by an uneducated rustic with a 
slight tincture of letters ; or if in these songs 
the character of the rustic be sometimes assum- 
ed, the truth of character, and the language of 
nature, are preserved. With unaffected sim- 
plicity and tenderness, topics are urged, most 
likely to soften the heart of a cruel and coy 
mistress, or to regain a fickle lover. Even in 
such as are of a melancholy cast, a ray of hope 
breaks through, and dispels the deep and settled 
gloom which characterizes the sweetest of the 
Highland luinays, or vocal airs. Nor are these 
songs all plaintive ; many of them are lively 
and humorous, and some appear to us coarse 
and indelicate. They seem, however, genuine 
descriptions of the manners of an energetic and 
sequestered people in their hours of mirth and 
festivity, though in their portraits some object* 
are brought into open view, which more fasti- 
dious painters would have thrown into shade. '' 
" As those rural poets sung for amusement, 




not for gain, their effusions seldom exceeded a 
love-song, or a ballad of satire or bumour, 
which, like the words of the elder minstrels, 
were seldom committed to writing, but trea- 
sured up in the memory of their friends and 
neighbours. Neither known to the learned 
nor patronized by the great, these rustic bards 
lived and died in obscurity; and by a strange 
fatality, their story, and even their very names 
have been forgotten.* When proper models 
for pastoral songs were produced, there would 
be no want of imitators. To succeed in this 
species of composition, soundness of under- 
standing and sensibility of heart were more re- 
quisite than flights of imagination or pomp of 
numbers. Great changes have certainly taken 
place in Scottish song-writing, though we can- 
not trace the steps of this change ; and few of 
the pieces admired in Queen Mary's time are 
now to be discovered in modem collections. 
It is possible, though not probable, that the 
music may have remained nearly the same, 
though the words to the tunes were entirely 

These conjectures are highly ingenious. It 
cannot, however, be presumed, thiat the state 
of ease and tranquillity described by Mr Ram- 
say took place among the Scottish peasantry 
immediately on the union of the crowns, or in- 
deed during the greater part of the seventeenth 
century. The Scottish nation, through all 
ranks, wa« deeply ag^itated by the civil wars, 
and the religious persecutions which succeeded 
each other in that disastrous period ; it was 
not till after the revolution in 1688, and the 
subsequent establishment of their beloved form 
of church government, that the peasantry of 
the Lowlands enjoyed comparative repose ; and 
it is since that period that a great number of 
the most admired Scottish songs have been 
produced, though the tunes to which they are 
sung, are in general of much greater antiquity. 
It is not unreasonable to suppose, that the 
peace and security derived from the Revolu* 
tion, and the Union, produced a favourable 
change on the rustic poetry of Scotland ; and 
it can scarcely be doubted, that the institution 
of parish schools in 1696, by which a certain 
degree of instruction was diffused universally 
among the peasantry, contributed to this happy 

Soon after this appeared Allan Ramsay, the 
Scottish Theocritus. He was bom on the 
high mountains that divide Clydesdale and 
Annandale, in a small hamlet by the banks of 
Glengonar, a stream which descends into the 
Clyde. The ruins of this hamlet are still 

• In the Pepys collection, there are a few Soottith 
Bonga of the last century, but the names of the aathors 
are not preserved. 

f Extract of a letter from Mr Ramsay of Ochtertt/re 
to the Editor, Sept 11, 1799. In the See, Vol. Ilf p. 
SOI, is a communication of Mr Ramsay, ander the sigua* 
lure of J. Runcole, which enters into this subject some- 
what more at large. In that paper he gives his reasooo 
for fnettioning the antiquity of many of the celebrated 
Scottish Songs. 

shown to the inquiring traveller.* He was the 
son of a peasant, and probably received fuch 
instmction as his parish-school bestowed, and 
the poverty of his parents admitted, f Ramsay 
made his appearance in Edinbui^h, in the bi^ 
ginning of the present century, in the humble 
character of an apprentice to a barber; he was 
then fourteen or fifteen years of age. By de- 
grees he acquired notice for his social disposi- 
tion, and his talent for the composition of 
verses in the Scottish idiom ; and, changing 
bis profession for that of a bookseller, he be- 
came intimate with many of the literary, as 
well as the gay and fashionable characters of 
his time.f Having published a volume of 
poems of his own in 1721, which was favour- 
ably received, he undertook to make a collec- 
tion of ancient Scottish poems, under the title 
of the Ever- Green, and was afterwards encour- 
aged to present to the world a collection of 
Scottish songs. " From what sources he pro- 
cured them,** says Ramsay of Ochtertyre, 
** whether from tradition or manuscript, is un- 
certain. As in the Ever-GreeH he made some 
rash attempts to improve on the ori^als of 
his ancient poems, he probably used still great- 
er freedom with the songs and ballads. The 
tmth cannot, however, be known on this point, 
till manuscripts of the songs printed by bim, 
more ancient than the present centui^, shall be 
produced, or access be obtained to his own pa- 
pers, if they are still in existence. To several 
tunes which either wanted words, or had words 
that were improper, or imperfect, he or his 
friends adapted verses worthy of the melodies 
they accompanied, worthy indeed of the golden 
age. These verses were perfectly intelligible 
to every rustic, yet justly admired by persons 
of taste, who re^pirded them as the genuine off- 
spring of the pastoral mute. In some respects 
Kamsay had advantages not possessed by poets 
writing in the Scottish diiuect in our days. 
Songs in the dialect of Cumberland or Lanca- 
shire, could never be popular, because these 
dialects have never been spoken by persons of 
fashion. But till the miadle of the present 
century, every Sootsnuui, from the peer to the 
peasant, spoke a truly Doric language* It is 
true the English moralists and poets were by 
this time read by every person of condition, 
and considered as the standards for polite com- 
position. But, as national prejudices were still 

* See CampbeiPs History of Poetry in Scotland, p. 18& 
f The father of Mr Ramsay was. It is said, a woncman 

in the lead.mines of the Earl of Hopatoon, at Lead.hiUa. 
The workmen at those mines at present are of a rerj 
superior character to miners in general. They hai^ 
only six hoiurs of laboar in the day, and have time for 
reading. They have a common library supported by 
contribution, containing several thousand volumes. 
When this was instituted I have not learned. These 
miners are sidd to be of a very sober and moral charac. 
ter. Allan Ramsay, when very young, is suppoeed to 
have been a washer of ore in these mines. 

t *' He was coeval with Joseph Mitehell, and his dub 
of naol/ wits, who, about 1719, puWislied a very poor 

* " /the 

M." Ea 

of a tetter from Mr Ramtoff oflUfhUr^f 

miscellany, to wliich Dr Young, the author oi 
NigAt Thtfughts, prefixed a copy of verses.** En 
of a tetCerfrom Mr Ramsaw ofO^httrhnre toth«£t 




strong, the busy, the learned, the gay, and the 
fair continued to speak their native aialect) and 
that with an elegance and poignancy of which 
Scotsmen of the present day can have no just 
notion. I am old enough to have conversed 
with Mr Spittal, of Leuchat, a scholar and a 
man of fashion, who survived all the members 
of the Union Parliament, in which he had a 
seat. His pronunciation and phraseology dif- 
fered as much from the common dialect, as the 
language of St James's from that of Thames 
Street. Had we retained a court and parlia- 
ment of our own, the tongues of the two sister 
kingdoms would indeed have differed like the 
Castilian and Portuguese ; but each would 
have its own classics, not in a single branch, 
but in the whole circle of literature. 

** Ramsay associated with the men of wit 
and fashion of his day, and several of them at- 
tempted to wTite poetry in his manner. Per- 
sons too idle or too dissipated to think of 
compositions that required much exertion, 
succeeded verv happily in making tender son- 
nets to favourite tunes in compliment to their 
mistresses, and transforming themselves into 
impassioned shepherds, caught the language of 
the characters they assumed. Thus, about the 
year 1731, Robert Crawfurd of Auchinames, 
wrote the modern song of Tweedside,* which 
has been so much admired. In 1743, Sir 
Gilbert Elliot, the first of our lawyers who both 
spoke and wrote English elegantly, composed, 
in the character of a love-sick swain, a beauti- 
ful song, beginning, jify sheep I neglected, I 
lost my sheep-hooky on the marriage of his mis- 
Cress, Miss Forbes, with Ronald Crawfurd. 
And about twelve years afterwards, the sister 
of Sir Gilbert wrote the ancient words to the 
tune of the Flowers of the Forestf\hi\d supposed 
to allude to the battle of Flowden. In spite 
of the double rhyme, it is a sweet, and though 
in some parts allegorical, a natural expression 
of national sorrow. The more modem words 
to the same tune, beginning, / have seen the 
smiling of fortune beauilingf were written long 
before by Mrs CocKburn, a woman of great I 
wit, who outlived all the first group of literati 
of the present century, all of whom were very 
fond of her. I was delighted with her company, 
though when I saw her, she was very old. 
Much did she know that is now lost." 

Jn addition to these instances of Scottish 
songs, produced in the earlier part of the present 
century, may be mentioned the ballad of Hardi- 
knute, by Lady Wardlaw ; the ballad of William 
and Margaret ; and the song entitled the Birks 
of Invermayf by Mallet ; the love-song, begin- 
ning. For every Fortune, wilt thou prove, pro- 
duced by the youthful muse of Thomson ; and 
the exquisite pathetic ballad, the Braes of 
Yarrow, by Hamiltq^i of Bangour. On the 
revival of letters in Scotland, subsequent to the 
Union, a very general taste seems to have pre> 

♦ Beginning, What hftutien does Fora dhclose ! 
f Beginning, / have hexid a lilting at our evcei-miiking. 

vailed for the national songs and music. *' For 
many years," says Mr Ramsay, «* the singing of 
songs was the great delight of the higher and 
middle order of the people, as well as of the 
peasantry ; and though a taste for Italian music 
has interfered with this amusement, it is still 
very prevalent. Between forty and fifty years 
ago, the common people were not only exceed- 
ingly fond of songs and ballads, but of metriciil 
history. Often have I, in my cheerful morn 
of youtli, listened to them with delight, when 
reading or reciting the exploits of Wallace and 
Bruce against the Southrons, Lord Hailes 
was wont to call Blind Harry their Bible, he 
being their great favourite next the Scriptures. 
When, therefore, one in the vale of life felt the 
first emotion of genius, he wanted not models 
sui generis. But though the seeds of poetry 
were scattered with a plentiful hand among the 
Scottish peasantry, the product was probably 
like that of pears and apples — of a thousand 
that sprung up, nine hundred and fifty are so 
bad as to set the teeth on edge ; forty-five or 
more are passable and useful ; and the rest of 
an exquisite flavour. Allan Ramsay and 
Burns are wildings of this last description. 
They had the example of the elder Scottish 
poets ; they were not without the aid of the best 
English writers ; and, what was of still more 
importance, they were no strangers to the book 
of nature, and to the book of God." 

From this general view, it is apparent that 
Allan Ramsay may be considered as in a great 
measure the reviver of the rural poetry of his 
country. His collection of ancient Scottish 
poems under the name of TTie Ever- Green, his 
collection of Scottish songs, and his own poems^ 
the principal of which is the Gentle Shqdierd, 
have been universally read among the peasantry 
of his country, and have in some degree super- 
seded the adventures of Bruce and Wullace, 
as recorded by Barbour and Blind Harry. 
Burns was well acquainted with all of these. 
He had also before him the poems of Fergusson 
in the Scottish dialect, which have been produc- 
ed in our own times, and of which it will be 
necessary to give a short account. 

Fergusson was born of parents who had it in 
their power to procure him a liberal education, 
a circumstance, however, which in Scotland, 
implies no very high rank in society. From 
a well written and apparently authentic account 
of his life,* we learn that he spent six years 
at the schools of Edinburgh and Dundee and se- 
veral years at the universities of Edinburgh and 
St Andrew's. It appears that he was at one time 
destined for the Scottish church ; but as he ad- 
vanced towards manhood, he renounced that 
intention, and at Edinburgh entered the office 
of a writer to the signet, a title which desig- 
nates and separates a higher order of Scottish 
attorneys. Fei^sson had sensibility of mind, 
a warm and generous heart, and talents for so- 

« In the Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannir/t. 
See «L<o, Catnpbelts Introduction to the History of Fo* 
etry in Scotland, See p. 288. 



ciety, of tbe most attractive kind. To such a 
man no situation could be more dangerous than 
that in which he was placed. Tbe excesses 
into which he was led, impaired his feeble con- 
stitution, and he sunk under them in the 
month of October, 1774, in his 23d or 24th 
year. Bums was not acquainted with the 
poems of this youthful genius when he him- 
self began to write poetry ; and when he first 
saw them, he had renounced the muses. But 
while he resided in the town of Irvine, meeting 
with FergussofCs ScoUish Poems, he informs 
us that he " strung his lyre anew with emulat- 
ing vigour."* Touched by the sympathy ori- 
ginating in kindred genius, and in the forebod- 
ings of similar fortune, Burns regarded Fergus- 
son with a partial and an affectionate admira. 
tion. Over his grave be erected a monument, 
as has already been mentioned ; and his poems 
lie has in several instances, made tbe subjects 
of h 8 imitation. 

From this account of the Scottish poems 
known to Burns, those who are acquainted 
with them will see they are chiefly humorous 
or pathetic ; and under one or other of these 
descriptions most of his own poems will class. 
Let us compare him with his predecessors im- 
der each of these points of view, and close our 
examination with a few general observations. 

It has frequently been observed, that Scot- 
land has produced, comparativelv speaking, few 
writers who have excelled in humour. But 
this observation is true only when applied to 
those who have continued to reside in their 
own country, and have confined themselves to 
composition in pure English ; and in these cir- 
cumstances it admits of an easy explanation. 
The Scottish poets, who have written in the dia- 
lect of Scotland, have been at all times remark- 
able for dwelling on subjects of humour, in which 
indeed some of them have excelled. It would 
be easy to show, that the dialect of Scotland 
having become provincial, is now scarcely suit- 
ed to the more elevated kinds of poetry. If 
we may believe that the poem of Christis Kirk 
of the Grene was written by James tbe First 
of Scotland,! this accomplished monarch, who 
had received an English education under Hen- 
ry the Fourth, and who bore arms under his 
gallant successor, gave the model on which the 
greater part of the humorous productions of 
tbe rustic muse of Scotland had been formed. 
ChrisUi Kirk of the Grene was reprinted by 
Ramsay, somewhat modernized in the ortho- 
graphy, and two cantos were added by him, in 
which be attempts to carry on the design. 
Hence the poem of King James is usually 
printed in Ramsay's works. Tbe royal bard 

* See p. xxxL 

t Nutwithtstandinff thp evidence produced on this sab- 
Ject by Mr Tytler, the Editor at'kaowledges his being 
bomeMrhat of a sceptic on this poiut Sir David Dalrym- 
I ie inclines to the opinion that it was written by his 
success r James the Fifth. Tliere are difficulties attend- 
lag this supposiiiou also. But on the subject of Scot- 
ttsh Autlquitifls tlie Editor is an incompetent judge. 

describes, in the first canto, a rustic dtfoce* and 
afterwards a contention in arrhery, ending in 
an affray. Ramsay relates the restoration of 
concord, and the renewal of the nind sports 
with the humours of a country wedding. 
Though each of tbe poets describes the man- 
ners of his respective age, yet in tbe whole 
piece there is a very sufficient uniformity ; a 
striking proof of tbe identity of character in 
the Scottish peasantry at tbe two periods, dis- 
tant from each other three hundred years. It 
is an honourable distinction to this body of 
men, that their cliaracter and manners, very 
little embellished, have been found to be sus- 
ceptible of an amusing and interesting species 
of poetry ; and it must appear not a little cu- 
rious, that the single nation of modern Europe 
which possesses an original poetry, should have 
received tbe model, ioUowed by their rustic 
bards, from the munurch on tbe throne. 

Tbe two additional cantos to ChrisHa Kirk 
of the Grene, written by Ramsay, though ob- 
jectionable in point of delicacy, are among tbe 
happiest of his productions. His chief excel- 
lence indeed, hiy in tbe description of rural 
characters, incidents, and scenery ; for he did 
not possess any very high powers either of im- 
agination or of understanding. He was well 
acquauited with the peasantry of Scotland, 
their lives and opinions. The subject 
was in a great measure new ; his talents 
were equal to the subject, and be has 
shown that it may be happily adapted to 
pastoral poetry. In bis GenlU Shepherd, the 
characters are delineations from nature, the 
descriptive parts are in the genuine style of 
beautiful simplicity, the passions and affections 
of rural life are finely portrayed, and the 
heart is pleasingly interested in the happiness 
that is bestowed on innocence and virtue. 
Throughout the whole there is an air of reality 
which the most careless reader cannot but per- 
ceive ; and in fact no poem ever perhaps acquir- 
ed so high a reputation, in which truth receiv- 
ed so little embellishment from the imagination. 
In his pastoral songs, and his rural tales, Ram- 
say appears to less advantage, indeed, but still 
with considerable attraction. Tbe story of the 
Monk and the MiUer*8 Wife, though somewhat 
licentious, may rank with the happiest produc- 
tions of Prior or La Fontaine, ^ut when be 
attempts subjects from higher life, and aims at 
pure English composition, be is feeble and 
uninteresting, and seldom even reaches medio- 
crity.* Neither are his familiar epistles and 
elegies in the Scottish dialect entitleii to much 
approbation. Though Feigusson had higher 
powers of imagination than Kamsay, his genius 
was not of the highest order; nor did his 
learning, which was considerable, improve his 
genius. His poems written in piu^ English, 
in which he often follows classical models, 
though superior to the English poems of Ram 
say, seldom rise above mediocrity ; but in those 

* See The Morning ItUenmw, &o 



cdmposed in the Scottish dialect he is often 
very successful. He was, in general, however, 
less happv than Ramsay in the subjects of his 
rouse. As he spent the greater part of his life 
in Edinburgh, and wrote for his amusement in 
the intervals of business or dissipation, his 
Scottish poems are chiefly founded on the in- 
cidents of a town life, which, though they are 
not susceptible of humour, do not admit of 
those delineations of scenery and manners, 
which vivify the rural poetry of Ramsay, and 
which so agreeably amuse the fancy and interest 
• the heart The town eclogues of Fergusson, 
if we may so denominate them, are however 
faithful to nature, and often distinguished by a 
very happy vein of humour. His poems enti- 
tled Tite Daft Days, The King^s Birthday in 
Edinburgh, LeUh Races, and The Hallow Fair, 
will justify this character. In these, particu- 
larly in the last, he imitated Chrislis Kirk of the 
Grene, as Ramsay had done before him. His 
Address to the Tron-hirk Bell is an exquisite 
piece of humour, which Burns has scarcely ex- 
celled. In appreciating the genius of PVgus- 
son, it ought to be recollected, that his poems 
are the careless effusions of an irregular though 
amiable young man, who wrote for the periodi- 
cal papers of the day, and who died in early 
youth. Had his life been prolonged under 
happier circumstances of fortune, he would 
probably have risen to much higher reputation. 
He might have excelled in rural poetry, for 
though his professed pastorals on the establish- 
ed Sicilian model, are stale and uninteresting, 
TTie Farmer*s Ingle,* which may be considered 
as a Scottish pastoral, is the happiest of all his 
productions, and certainly was the archetype of 
the Cotter's Saturday Might, Fergusson, and 
more especially Burns, have shown, that the 
character and manners of the peasantry of 
Scotland, of the present times, are as well 
adapted to poetry, as in the days of Ramsay, or 
of the author of Cliristis Kirk of the Grene, 

The humour of Burns is of a richer vein than 
that of Ramsay or Fergusson, both of whom, 
as he himself informs us, be had ** frequently 
in his eye, but rather with a view to kindle at 
their tiame, than to servile imitation.*' His 
descriptive powers, whether the objects on 
which they are employed be comic or serious, 
animate, or inanimate, are of the highest order. 
— A superiority of this kind is essential to 
every species of poetical excellence. In one 
of his earlier poems his plan seems to be 
to inculcate a lesson of contentment on the 
lower classes of society, by showing that 
their superiors are neither much better nor 
happier than themselves ; and this he chooses 
to execute in the form of a dialogue between 
two dogs. He introduces this dialogue by an 
account of the persons and characters ot the 
speakers. The first, whom he has named Gesar, 
is a dog of condition : — 

* The ftu-mer's fire-side. 

" His locked, letler'd, braw brass- collar, 
Showed him the gentleman and scholar.* 

High-bred though he is, he is however full uf 
condescension : 

" At kirk or market, mill or smiddie, 
Nae taA^ted tyke, the' e'er sae duddie, 
But he vrad stan't, as glad to see him, 
j4n stroanU on slanes an' hillocks wi* him," 

The other Luuth, is a " ploughman's- collie, * 
but a cur of a good heart and a sound under 

•' His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face, 
Aye gat him friends in ilka place; 
His hreast was white, his towsie back 
Weel clad wi' coat o' flossy black ; 
His gawcie lail^ wi" upward curi^ 
Hung o'er his hurdies wi' a sunrl.'* 

Never were twa dogs so exquisitely delineat- 
ed. Their gambols, before they sit down to 
moralize, are described with an equal degree of 
happiness ; and through the whole dialogue, 
the character, as well as the different condition 
of the two speakers, is kept in view. The 
speech of Luath, in which he enumerates the 
comforts of the poor, gives the following ac- 
count of their merriment on the first day oi 
the year : 

" That merry day the year begins, 
They bar the door on frosty winds : 
The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream, 
And siieds a heart-inspirin' steam ; 
The luntin pipe, and sneeshin' mill, 
Are handed round wi' right guid-will ; 
The canty auld folks crackin' crouse. 
The young anes rantin' tliro' the house— 
My heart nas been sae fain to see ihom, 
That I for joy hae bar kit wV t/ttm.** 

Of all the animals who have moralized on hu- 
man affairs since the days of JBsop, the dog 
seems best entitled to this privilege, as well from 
his superior sagacity, as from his being, more 
than any other, the friend and associate of man. 
The dogs of Bums, exceping in their talenl 
for moralizing, are downright dogs ; and not 
like the horses of Swift, or the Hind andPan^ 
ther of Dryden, men in the shape of brutes. It 
is this circumstance that heightens the humour 
of the dialogue. The " twa dogs " are con- 
stantly kept before our eyes, and the contrast 
between their form and character as dogs, and 
the sagacity of their conversation, heightens 
the humour, and deepens the impression of 
the poet's satire. Though in this poem the 
chief excellence may be considered as humour, 
yet great talents are displayed in its composi- 
tion ; the happiest powers of description and 
the deepest insight into the human heart* 

* When this poem first appeared, it was thought ;bv 
some very surprising, that a peasant who had not an o; - 
portunity of associating even with a simple gentlerajiu 



It is seldom, however, that the humour of 
Burns appears in so simple a form. The live- 
liness of his sensibility frequently impels him 
to introduce into subjects of humour, emotions 
of tenderness or of pity ; and, where occasion 
admits, he is sometimes carried on to exert the 
higher powers of imagination. In such in- 
stances he leaves the society of Ramsay and of 
Fergusson, and associates himself with the 
masters of English poetry, whose language he 
frequently assumes. 

Of the union of tenderness and humour, ex- 
amples may be found in The Death and Dying 
Words of poor Mailie, in The auld Farmer's 
New-Year's Morning Salutation to his Mare 
Maggie, and in many other of his poems. The 
praise of whisky is a favourite subject with 
Burns. To this he dedicates his poem of 
Scotch Drink. After mentioning its cheering 
influence in a variety of situations, he describes, 
with singular liveliness and power of fancy, its 
stimulating effects on the blacksmith working 
at his foi^e : 

** Nae mercy, then, for aim or steel ; 
The brawnie, bainie, ploughman chiel. 
Brings hard owre-hip, wi' sturdy wheel, 

The strong fore-hammer. 
Till block an* studdle ring and reel 

W dinsome clamour,' 

On another occasion,* choosing to exalt 
whisky above wine, he introduces a comparison 
between the natives of more genial climes, to 
whom the vine furnishes their beverage, and 
his own countrymen who drink the spirit of 
malt. The description of the Scotsman is 
humorous : 

" But bring a Scotsman frae his hfl), 
Clap in his cheek a Highland gill,f 
Say, such is royal George's will. 

An' there's the foe ; 
He has nae thought but how to kill 

Twa at a blow. " 

Here the notion of danger rouses the imagi. 
nation of the poet. He goes on thus : 

** Nae cauld faint-hearted doubtings te&ze him ; 
Death comes — wi' fearless eye he sees him ; 
Wi» bluidy hand a welcome gies him. 

And when he fa*s. 
His latest draught o' breathing lea'es him 
in faint huzzas." 

should hare been able to portray the character of high. 
Ufe with such accuracy. And when it was recollected 
that he had probably been at the races of Ayr, where 
nobility as well as gentry are to be seen, it was con. 
eluded that the race ground had been the field of his 
observation. This was sagacious enougiii but it dUd 
not require.such instruction to inform Burns, that hu. 
man nature is esseutially the same in the high and low: 
and a genius which comprehends the human mind, easily 
comprehends the accidental varieties introduced by situ, 

* The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer to the Scotch 
Hepresentativet in Parliament, p. 92. 

+ Of whisky. 

Again, however, he sinks into humour, and 
concludes the poem with the following most 
laughable, but most irreverent apostrophe : 

** Scotland, my auld, respected mither ! 
Though whyles ye moistify your leather, 
♦Till where you at, on craps o' heather, 

Ye tine your dam ; 
Freedom and Whisky gang thesither, 

Tak' aff your dram !»» 

Of this union of humour, with the higher 
powers of imagination, instances may be found 
in the poem entitled Death and Dr Hornbook, 
and in almost every stanza of the Address to 
the Deil, one of the happiest of his produc- 
tions. After reproaching this terrible being 
with all his « doings " and misdeeds, in the 
course of which he passes through a series 
of Scottish superstitions, and rises at times 
into a high strain of poetry ; he concludes this 
address, delivered in a tone of great familiarity, 
not altogether unmixed with apprehension, in 
the following words : 

" But, fare ye weel, auld NIckie-ljen 
O wad ye tak a thought an» men* ! 
Ye ablins might— 1 dinna ken— 

Still ha'e a stake— 
I'm wao to think upo' you den 

£v>n for your sake ! 

Humour and tenderness are here so happily 
intermixed, that it is impossible to say which 

Fergusson wrote a dialogue between the 
Causeway and the Flainstones* of Edinburgh. 
This probably suggested to Burns his dialogue 
between the Old anid New Bridge over the river 
Ayr.f The nature of such subjects requires 
that they shall be treated humorously, and 
Fergusson has attempted nothing beyond this. 
Though the Causeway and the Plainstones 
talk together, no attempt is made to personify 
the speakers. A " cadie"| heard the conver- 
sation, and reported it to the poet 

In the dialogue between the Brigs of Ayr, 
Bums himself is the auditor, and the time and 
occasion on which it occurred is related with 
great circumstantiality. The poet, ^press'd 
by care," or ** inspired by whim," had left his 
bed in the town of Ajrr, and wandered out 
alone in the darkness and solitude of a winter 
night, to the mouth of the river, where the 
stillness was interrupted only by the rushing 
sound of the influx of the tide. It was after 
midnight. The Dungeon-clock^ had struck 
two, and the sound had been repeated by 
Wallace. Tower. § All else was hushed. The 
moon shone brightly, and 

" The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam, 
Crept, gently-crusting, o'er the glittering stream. " 

• The middle of the street, and the side^-way. 
+ The Brigs of Ayr, p. 8a j A messenger. 

S The two steeple* of Ayr. 



In this situation, the listening bard bears the 
''clanging sugh" of wings moving through the 
air, and speedily be perceives two beings, 
reared, the one on the Old, the other on the 
New Bridge, whose form and attire he de- 
scribes, and whose conversation with each 
other be rehearses. These genii enter into a 
comparison of the respective edifices over 
which they preside, and afterwards, as is usual 
between tne old and young, compare modern 
characters and manners with those of past 
times. They differ, as may be expected, and 
taunt and scold each other in broad Scotch. 
This conversation, which is certainly humor- 
ous, may be considered as a proper business of 
the poem. As the debate runs high, and 
threatens serious consequences, all at once it 
is interrupted by a new scene of wonders : 

•'*all before their sight 

A fairy train appear'd in order bright; 
Adown the glittering stream they feally danced ; 
Bright to the moon tneir various dresses glanced ; 
They footed o'er the wat'ry glass so neat. 
The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet ; 
While arts of nunstrelsy among them rung. 
And soul-ennobled Bards heroic ditties sung," 

"The Genius of the Stream in front appears, 
A venerable cliief, advanced in years ; 
His hoary head with water-lilies croNvn'd, 
His manly leg ^rith garter tangle bound.*' 

Next follow a number of otner allegorical 
beings, among whom are the four seasons, 
Rural Joy, Plenty, Hospitality, and Courage. 

"Benevolence, with mild benignant air, 
A female form, came from the tow'rs of Stair : 
Learning and VVortli in equal measures trodc, 
From simple Catrine, their long-loved abode : 
Last, white-robed Peace, crown'd with a ha2el 

To rustic Agriculture did bequeath 
The broken iron instrument of Death ; 
At sight of whom our Sprites forgat their kin- 
dling wraths" 

This poem, irregular and imperfect as it is, 
displays various and powerful talents, and may 
serve to illustrate the genius of Burns. In 
particular, it affords u striking instance of his 
being carried beyond his original purpose by 
the powers of imagination. 

In Fergusson's poem, the Plainatones and 
Causeway contrast the characters of the dif- 
ferent persons who walked upon them. Bums 
probably conceived, that, by a dialogue be- 
tween the Old and New Bridge, he might 
form a humorous contrast between ancient and 
modern manners in the town of Ayr. Such a 
dialogue could only be supposed to pass in the 
stillness of night ; and this led our poet into a 
description of a midnight scene, which excited 
in a high degree the powers of his imagination. 
During the whole dialogue the scenery is pre- 

sent to his fancy, and at length it suggests to 
him a fairy dance of aerial beings, under the 
beams of the moon, by which the wrath of the 
Genii of the Brigs of Ayr is appeased. 

Incongruous as the different parts of this 
poem are, it is not an incongruity that dis- 
pleases ; and we have only to regret that the 
poet did not bestow a little pains in making 
the figures more correct, and in smoothing the 

The epistles of Bums, in which may be in- 
cluded bis Dedication to O, H, Esq. discover, 
like his other writings, the powers of a supe- 
rior understanding. They display deep insight 
into human nature, a gay and happy strain of 
reflection, great independence of sentiment, 
and generosity of heart. It is to be regretted, 
that in his Holy Fair, and in some of bis other 
poems, his humour degenerates into personal 
satire, and is not sufficiently guarded in other 
respects. The Halloween of Bums is free 
from every objection of this sort. It is inter- 
esting not merely from its humorous descrip- 
tion of manners, but as it records the spells 
and charms used on the celebration of a iesti. 
val, now, even in Scotland, falling into neglect, 
but which was once observed over the greater 
part of Britain and Ireland.* These charms 
are supposed to afford an insight into futurity, 
especially on the subject of marriage, the roos; 
interesting event of rural life. In the Hal- 
hween, a female, in performing one of the 
spells, has occasion to go out by moonlight to 
dip her shift- sleeve into a stream running to- 
wards the South. f It was not necessary for 
Burns to give a description of this stream. 
But it was the character of his ardent mind to 
pour forth not merely what the occasion re- 
quired, but what it admitted ; and the tempta- 
tion to describe so beautiful a natural object 
by moonlight, was not to be resisted— 

" Whyles owre a linn the bumie plays, 
As through the glen it wimpl't; 
Whyles round the rocky scar it strays : 

Whyles in a wiel it dimpPt ; 
Whyles glitter'd to the nightly rays, 

Wi* bickering dancing dazzle ; 
Whyles cookit undeme^ the braes, 
Beneath the spreading hazel. 

Unseen that night 

Those who understand tb« Scottish dialect 
will allow this to be one of the finest instan- 
ces of description which the records of poetry 
afford — Though of a very different nature, it 
may be compared, in point of excellence, with 
Thomson's description of a river swollen by 
the rains of winter, bursting through the 
streights that confine its torrent, " boiling, 
wheeling, foaming, and thundering along."! 

In pastoral, or, to speak more correctly, in 
rural poetry of a serious natural, Bums ex- 

* Id Ireland it is still celebrated. It is not quite in 
disuse in Walee. 

f See page 1 15. t See Thomson's Whiter. 




celled equally as m that of a humorous kind, | 
and, using less of the Scottish dialect in his 
serious poems, he becomes more generally in- 
telligible. It is difficult to decide whether the 
Address to a Mouse whose nest was turned up 
with the ploughf* should be considered as sen- 
ous or comic. Be this as it may, the poem is 
one of the happiest and most nnished of his 

Sroductions. If we smile at the "bickering 
rattle" of this little flying animal, it is a smile 
of tenderness and pity. The descriptive part 
is admirable : the moral reflections beautiful, 
and arising directly out of the occasion ; and 
in the conclusion there is a deep melancholy, 
a sentiment of doubt and dread, that arises to 
the sublime. The Address to a Mountain 
Daixy, turned down with the plough,\ is a poem 
of the same nature, though somewhat inferior 
in point of originality, as well as in the interest 
produced. To extract out of incidents so 
common, and seemingly so trivial as these, so 
fine a train of sentiment and imagery, is the 
surest proof, as well as the most brilliant 
triumph, of original genius. The Vision, in 
two cantos, from which a beautiful extract is 
taken by Mr Mackenzie, in the 97th number 
of the Lounger, is a poem of great and various 
excellence. The opening, in which the poet 
describes his own state of mind, retiring in the 
evening, wearied, from the. labours of the day, 
to moralize on his conduct and prospects, is 
truly interesting. The chamber, if we may 
so term it, in which he sits down to muse, is 
an exquisite painting; 

** There, lanely, bv the ingle cheek, 
1 sat and eyed tne spewing reek, 
Tliat fiU'd wi' hoast-provoking smeek 

That auld clay biggin ; 
An* heard the restless rattons squeak 
About the riggin." 

To reconcile to our imagination the entrance 
of an aerial being into a mansion of this kind, 
required the powers of Bums — he, however, 
succeeds. Coila enters, and her countenance, 
attitude, and dress, unlike those of other spiri- 
tual beings, are distinctly portrayed. To 
the painting on her mantle, on which is de- 
picted the most striking scenery, as well as the 
most distinguished characters, of his native 
country, some exceptions may be made. The 
mantle of Coila, like the cup of Thyrsis,^ and 
the shield of Achilles, is too much crowded 
with figures, and some of the objects repre- 
sented upon it are scarcely admissible, accord- 
ing to the principles of design. The generous 
temperament of Bums led him into these 
exuberances. In his second edition he en- 
larged the number of figures originally intro- 
duced, that he might include objects to which 
he was attached by sentiments of affection, 
gratitude, or patriotism. The second Duan, 

• Page 1 17. f Page 126. 

X See the first Idyllium uf l^ieocntus. 

or canto of this poem, in which Coila describes 
her own nature and occopations, particularly 
her superintendance of his infant genius, and 
in which she reconciles him to the character 
of a bard, is an elevated and solemn strain of 
poetry, ranking in all respects, excepting the 
narmony of numbers, with the higher produc- 
tions of the English muse. The concluding 
stanza, compared with that already <][uoted, 
will show to what a height Bums rises in this 
poem, from the point at which he set out :— 

" And wear tfiou this — she solemn said, 
And bound the holly round my head ; 
The polish'd leaves, and berries red. 

Did rustling play ; 
And, like a passing thought, she fled 

In light away." 

In various poems Burns has exhibited the 
picture of a mind under the deep impressions 
of real sorrow. 7%e Lament, the Ode to Ruin, 
Despondency, and Winter, a Dirge, are of this 
character. In the first of these poems the 
eighth stanza, which describes a sleepless night 
from anguish of mind, is particularly striking. 
Burns often indulged in those melancholy 
views of the nature and condition of man, 
which are so congenial to the temperament of 
sensibility. The poem entitled Man was made 
to Mourn, affords an instance of this kind, and 
The Winter Night* is of the same description. 
The last is highly characteristic, both of the 
temper of mind, and of the condition of Burns. 
It begins with a description of a dreadful storm 
on a night in winter. The poet represents 
himself as lying in bed, and listening to its 
howling. In this situation, he naturally turns 
his thoughts to the ovrtef Cattle, and the siily\ 
Sheep, exposed to all the violence of the tern- 
pest. Having lamented their fate, he proceeds 
in the following : 

" Ilk happing bird — wee helpless thing ! 
That In the merry months o^ spring. 
Delighted me to near thee sinff, 

What comes o* thee ? 
Whare wilt thou cow»r thy chittering wing. 

An* dose thy e^e ?" 

Other reflections of the same nature occur 
to his mind ; and as the midnight moon, 
** muffled with clouds,*' casts her dreary light 
on his window, thoughts of a darker and more 
melancholy nature crowd upon him. In this 
state of mind, he hears a voice pouring through 
the ^loom, a solemn and plaintive strain of re- 
flection. The mourner compares the fury of 
the elements with that of man to his brothei 
roan, and finds the former light in the balance. 

* See p. 117. 

\ Ourie^ ont-ljriog. Ourie Cattle, Cattle that nre un- 
housed all winter. 

t Silly is in this, as in otiter places, a term of compas. 
8)on and endearment 



'* See stem Oppression's iron grip, 

Or mad Ammtion's gory hand, 
Sending, like blood-huunds from the slip, 

Woe, want, and murder, o'er the land." 

He pursues this train of reflection through a 
variety of particulars, in the course of which 
he introduces the following animated apo- 
strophe ; 

O ye ! who sunii in beds of down. 

Feel not a want but what vourselves create, 

Think, for a moment, on his wretched fat«. 

Whom friends and fortune quite disown ! 
lU-satisfy'd keen Nature's clam'rous call, 

Stretch'd on his straw he lays him down to sleep, 
While thro' the ragged roof and chinky wall, 

Chill o'er his slumbers piles tlie drifiy heap." 

The strain of sentiment which runs through 
this poem is noble, though the execution is un- 
equal, and the versification is defective. 

Among the serious poems of Bums, The 
Cotter's Saturday Niyht is perhaps entitled to 
the first rank. The Farmer's Ingle of Fergus- 
son evidently suggested the plan of this poem, 
as has been already mentioned ; but after the 
plan was formed, Bums trusted entirely to his 
own powers for the execution. Fergusson's 
poem is certainly very beautiful. It has all 
the charms which depend on mral characters 
and manners happily portrayed, and exhibited 
under circumstances highly grateful to the im-» 
agination. The Farmer's Ingle begins with 
describing the return of evening. The toils of 
the day are over, and the farmer retires to his 
comfortable fire-side. The reception which he 
and his men-servants receive from the careful 
house-wife, is pleasingly described. After 
their supper is over, they begin to talk on the 
rural events of the day. 

•♦ 'Bout kirk and market eke their tales gae on. 
How Jock woo'd Jenny here to be his bride ; 

And there how Marion for a bastard son. 
Upon the cutty-stool was forced to ride. 

The waefu' scauld o' our Mess John to bide. 

The " Guidame" is next introduced as forming 
a circle round the fire, in the midst of her 
grand-children, and while she spins from the 
rock, and the spindle plays on her ** russet lap," 
she is relating to the young ones tales of 
witches and ghosts. The poet exclaims, 

** O mock nalhis my friends ! but rather mourn. 
Ye in life's brawest spring wi' reason clear, 

Wi' eild our idle fancies a' return. 

And dim our dolefu' days wi* bainily fear; 

The mind's aye cradled when the grav^ is near." 

In the meantime the farmer, wearied with 
the fatigues of the day, stretches himself at 
length on the settle, a sort of rustic couch, which 
extends on one side of the fire, and the cat and 
house-dog leap upon it to receive his caresses. 
Here, resting at his ease, he gives his directions 
to his men-servants for the succeeding day. 

The house-wife follows his example, and gives 
her orders to the maidens. By d^jees the oil 
in the cruise begins to fail ; the fire runs low ; 
sleep steals on his mstic group ; and they move 
off to enjoy their peaceful slumbers. The poet 
concludes by bestowing his blessing on the 
" husbandman and all his tribe.** 

This is an original and truly interesting 
pastoral. It possesses every thing required in 
this spedcs of composition. We might have 
perhaps said, every thing that it admits, had 
not Bums written his Cotter's Saturday Night, 

The cottager returning from his lubours, has 
no servants to accompany him, to partake of 
his fare, or to receive his instructions. The 
circle which he joins, is composed of his wife 
and children only ; and if it admits of less 
variety, it affords an opportunity for represent- 
ing scenes that more strongly interest the 
affections. The younger children running to 
meet him, and clambering round his knee ; the 
elder, retuming from their weekly labours with 
the neighboturing farmers, dutifully depositing 
their little gains with their parents, and receiv- 
ing their father's blessing and instructions ; the 
incidents of the courtship of Jenny, their eldest 
daughter, ** woman grown," are circumstances 
of the [post interesting kind, which are most 
happily delineated ; and after their fmgal sup* 
per, the representation of these humbler cottag- 
ers forming a wider circle round their hearth, 
and uniting in the worship of God, is a picture 
the most deeply affecting of any which the rural 
muse has ever presented to the view. Burns 
was admirably adapted to this delineation. 
Like ail men of genius he was of the tempera- 
ment of devotion, and the powers of memory 
co-operated in this instance with the sensibility 
of his heait, and the fervour of bis imagination.* 
The Cotter's Saturday Night is tender and 
moral, it is solemn and devotional, and rises at 
length in a strain of grandeur and sublimity, 
which modern poetry has not surpassed. The 
noble sentiments of patriotism with which it 
concludes, correspond with the rest of the 
poem. In no age or country have the pastoral 
muses breathed such elevated accents, if the 
Messiah of Pope be excepted, which is indeed 
a pastoral in form only. It is to be regretted 
that Bums did not employ his genius on other 
subjects of the same nature, which the manners 
and customs of the Scottish peasantry would 
have amply supplied. Such poetry is not to 
be estimated by the degree of pleasure which 
it bestows ; it sinks deeply into the heart, and 
is calculated, far beyond any other human 
means, for giving permanence to the scenes 
and the characters it so exquisitely describes.! 

* The reader will recollect that the Cotter was Biims*i 
father. See p. xxxiif. 

f A great number of manuMTlpt poems were found 
among Uie papers of Burno, Rddreued to him by admir- 
ers of his genius, from different parts of Briton, as well 
as from Ireland and America. Among these was a poe- 
tical epistle from Mr Telford, of Shrewsbury, of superior 
merit It was written in the dialect of Scotland (o( 
which country Mr Telford is a natire,} and in the rer-> 



Before we conclude, it will be proper to of- 
fer a few observations on the lyric productions 
of Burns. His compositions of this kind are 
chiefly songs, generally in the Scottish dialect. 

tifiofttion ^iierally employed by oar poet himself. Its 
olit}ect b to recommend tu him other subjects of ft serious 
nature similiir to that of the CoUer^t Saturday Night; 
and the reader will find that the adrice is happily en. 
forced by example. It would have i^iven >he ^itor 

tieasure to have inserted the whole of this poem, which 
e hopes will one day see the light ; he is happy to liave 
obtiiined, in the mean time, his friend Mr Telibrd's per* 
mission to insert the following extracts : 

and always after the model of the Scottist 
songs, on the general character and moral in^ 
fluence of which, some observations have al- 
ready been offered. We may hazard a few 
more particular remarks. 

Pursue, O Burnn, thy happy style, 

** Those manner, painting strains,** that while 

They bear me northward many a mile. 

Recall the days. 
When tender joyn, with pleasing smile, 

Blest my young ways. 

I see my fond companions rise, 

I Join the happy vtllage joys, 

1 see our green hills touch the skies. 

And thro* the woods, 
I hear the river's rushing noise. 

Its roaring flooda.* 

No distant Swiss with wanner glow, 
£*er heard liis native mo^ flow. 
Nor ooold his wishes stronger groiv. 

Than still have mine 
When np this ancient mountf 1 go, 

Wicii songs oAhine. 

O happy Bard ! thy genVous flame, 
'Wa* oiven to raise thy country's fame. 
For this thy ctiarming numbers came, 

I'hy matchless lays ; 
Then sing and save her virtuous name. 

To latest days. 

But mony a theme awaits thy muse, 
Fine as thy Cotter's sacred views. 
Then in such verse thy soul infuse. 

With holy air. 
And sing the course the pious choose. 

With all thy care. 

How with religious awe imprest. 
They open lay the guiltless breast. 
And youth and age with fears disU'est, 

All due prepare. 
The symbols of eternal revt 

Devout to share.; 

How down ilk lang withdrawing hill. 
Successive crowds the valleys fill. 
While pure religious converse still 

Beguiles the way. 
And gives a cast to youthful will. 

To suit the day. 

How placed along the sacred beard. 

Their noary pastor's looks adored. 

His voice with peace and blessing stored. 

Sent from above ; 
And faith, and hope, and joy aflbrd. 

And boundless love. 

0*er this, with warm seraphic glow. 
Celestial beings, pleased, bow, 
And, whispereo, hear the holy vow, 

'Mid grateful tears) 
And mark amid such vcenes below. 

Their future peers. 

• Th« banks of th« Mik in Dam(rie«.<hir», tre her* alloded to. 
t A beautiftil litUa mount which ttands immediatolj befMs, or 

Kher forms • part of Shrewsbury cattle, a teat of Sir William 
Ummj, Bare 

\ The Sacrament, Rcnerallj adminlUsrcd in the conntrr 
paiiahaaorSoottami in tiie open air. 

O mark the awful solemn scene !* 
When hoary winter clothes the plain* 
Along the snowy hills is seen 

A pproaching slow. 
In mourning weeds, the village train. 

In silent woe. 

Some much-respected brother's bier, 
(By turns in pious task they share) 
With heavy hearts they forward besr 

Along the path ; 
Where nei'bourstaw, in dusky air.f 

llie light of death. 

And when they pass the rocky howe. 
Where binwood bashes o'er them flow. 
And more aroond the rising knowe. 

Where nr away 
The kirkyard trees are seen to grow. 

By th* water brae. 

Assembled roond the narrow grave. 
While o*er them wintry temp«els rave, 
la the cold wind their grey lodes wave, 

As low they lay 
Their brother's body *Boog8t the lave 

Of parent day. 

Expresdve looks from each dedare 
Tlie ffriefs within, their bosoms bear. 
One holy bow devout they sliare. 

Then homo r«>tam. 
And think o'er all the virtues fair. 

Of him they mouriL 

Say how by early lessons taught, 
(Truth's pleasing air is willing caught) 
Congenial to th'untainted thought, 

The shepherdboy. 
Who tends his flecks on lonely height. 

Feels holy Joy. 

Is aoght on earth so lovdy known. 
On Sabbath mom, and far alone. 
His guUeiees soul all naked shown 

Before his God— 
Sodi prayVt must welcome reach the thr<Mie, 

And blest abode. 

O tell I with what a heartfelt Joy, 
The parent eyes the virtnons boy ; 
And allliiteomtant, kind employ 

Is bow to five 
The best of lear he can a\Joy, 

As means to Uve 

The, its carious site. 
The master who can clear indite. 
And lead him en to count and write. 

Demand thy care ; 
Nor pass the plenghman's school at night 

Without a share> 

Nor yet the tenty ourioas lad. 
Who o'er the ingle hiiuis his head. 
And begs o* nei^urs books to read ; 

For hence arise 
Thy ooantry*S sona, who far are spread, 

Baith bauld anil wise^ 

* A ScottfA ftnenl. 

t This alladet to a mfcrttltteii mtralaM ia BiAdal*, and Ab. 
aandala, thai a Ugbt piwedaa in tifie alghl every lyiaenl, maikliia 
the preciae path U it to pata. 



Of the historic or heroic ballads of Scot- 
land it is unnecessary to speak. Bums has no 
where imitated them, a circumstance to be re- 
gretted, since in this species of composition, 
from its admitting the more terrible, as well as 
the softer graces of poetry, be was eminently 
qualified to have excelled. The Scottish songs 
which served as a model to Burns, are almost 
without exception pastoral, or rather rural. 
Such of them as are comic, frequently treat of 
a rustic courtship, or a country wedding ; or 
they describe the differences of opinion which 
arise in married life. Bums has imitated this 
species, and surpassed his models. The song 
beginning, ** Husband, husband, cease your 
strife," may be cited in support of this obser- 
vation. * His other comic songs are of equal 
merit. In the rural songs of Scotland, whe- 
ther humorous or tender, the sentiments are 
given to particular characters, and very gener- 

The bonny lasseH as they spin. 

Perhapa ivi* Allan's BSkOga begin, 

How Tayaud Tweed smooth flowing rin 

Thro' flowery hows ; 
Where Shepherd-lads their sweethearts win 

With earnest vows. 

Or may be. Bums, thy thrilling page 
May a' their virtuous thoughts engage. 
While playful youth and placid age 

In concert join. 
To bless the bard, who, gay or sage. 

Improves the mind. 

Long may their harmless, simple ways, 
Nature's own pure emotloas raise : 
May BtlU the dear ronumtic blaze 

Of purest love. 
Their bosoms warm to latest days. 

And aye improve. 

May still each fond attachment glow. 

O'er woods, o'er streams, o'er hitis of snow ; 

May rugged rocks still dearer grow. 

And may their souls 
Even lore the warlock glens which through 

The tempest howls. 

To eternize such themes as these, 
And all their happy manners seize. 
Will every virtuous bosom please. 

And high in fame 
To future times will justly raise 

Thy patriot name. 

While all the venal tribes decay. 
That bask in flattery's flaunting ray. 
The noisome vermin of a day. 

Thy worlcs shall gain 
O'er every mind a boundleaa sway. 

And lasthig reign. 

When winter binds the hardened plains. 
Around each hearth, the hoary swains 
Shall teach the rising youth thy strains. 

And anxious say. 
Our blessing with our sons remains, 

And BuRMB's Lav ! 

* The dialogues between husbands and their wives 
which form the subjects of the Scottish songa, are almost 
all ludicrous and satirical, and in these contests the lady 
is generally victorious. From the collections of Mr Pin. 
kerton, we find that the comic muse of Scotland delight- 
ed in such repesentatioos from very early times, in her 
rude dramatic eflforts, as well as In her rustic songs. 

ally, the incidents are referred to particular 
scenenr. This last circumstance may be con- 
sidered as a distin^ishing feature of the Scot- 
tish songs, and on it a considerable part of their 
attraction depends. On all occasions the sen- 
timents, of whatever nature, are delivered in 
the character of the person principally interest- 
ed. If love be described, it is not as it is ob- 
served, but as it is felt ; and the passion is de- 
lineated under a particular aspect. Neither is 
it the fiercer impulses of desire that are express- 
ed, as in the celebrated ode of Sappho, the 
model of so many modern songs ; but those 
gentler emotions of tenderness and affection, 
which do not entirely absorb the lover; but 
permit bira to associate his emotions with the 
charms of external nature, and breathe the ac 
cents of purity and innocence, as well as of 
love. In these respects the love-songs of 
Scotland are honourably distinguished from the 
most admired classical compositions of the same 
kind ; and by such associations, a variety as 
well as liveliness, is given to the representation 
of this passion, which are not to be found in 
the poetry of Greece or Rome, or perhaps of 
any other nation. Many of the love- songs of 
Scotland describe scenes of rural courtship ; 
many may be considered as invocations from 
lovers to their mistresses. On such occasions 
a degree of interest and reality is given to the 
sentiment, by the spot destined to these happy 
interviews being particularized. The lovers 
perhaps meet at the Bush ahoon Traquairt or 
on the Banks of Ettrick ; the nymphs are in- 
voked to wander among the wilds of Roalin or 
the woods of Invermay, Nor is the spot mere- 
ly pointed out ; the scenery is often described 
as well as the character, so as to represent a 
complete pibture to the fancy. ♦ Thus the 

* One or two examples may lllostrafce thlsobeervatimL 
A Scottish song, written about a hundred years ago, 
begins thus :«> 

** On Ettrick bsmks, oo a summer^ night 
At gloaming, when the sheep drove hame, 

I met my lassie, braw and tight. 
Come wading barefoot a' her fane. 

Mv heart grew lig^t, I ran, 1 flang 

My arms about her Uly-neck, 
And kissed and clasped there fu' lang-— 

My w<Mtls they were na mony feck." 

The lover, who is a Hit^hluider, goes on to relate the 
language he employed with his Lowland maid to win 
her heart, and to persuade her to fly with him to the 
Highland hills, there to share his fortune. The sentl- 
meuts are in themselves l>eautiful. But we feel them 
with double force, while we conceive that they were 
address*^ by a lover to his mistress, whom he met all 
alone on a summer^ evening, by the bauka of a bean- 
tiful stream, which some of us have actually seen, and 
which all of^ us can paint to our imagination. Let us 
take another example. It is now a nymph, that speaks. 
Hear how she expresses herself— 

" How blythe each mom was I to see 

Mv swain come oVw the hiU I 
He akipt the bum, and flew to me, 

I met him with good wlli." 

Here U another picture drawn by tka pcnaU of Na- 



naked, the most beautiful scenery will always 
be found in the valleys, and on the banks of 
the wooded streams. Such scenery is pecul iar- 
ly interesting at the close of a summer day. 
As we advance northwards, the number of 
the days of summer, indeed, diminishes ; but 
from this cause, as well as from the mildness 
of the temperature, the attraction increases, and 
the summer night becomes still more beautiful. 
The greater obliquity of the sun's path in 
the ecliptic, prolongs the grateful seuson of 
twilight to the midnight hours, and the shades 
of the evening seem to mingle with the morn- 
ing's dawn. The rural poets of Scotland, as 
may be expected, associate in their songs the 
expression of passion, with the most beautiful 
of their scenery, in the fairest season of the 
year, and generally in those hours of the eren- 
nig when the beauties of nature are most in- 

To all these adventitious circumstances, on 
w hich so much of the effect of poetry depends, 
great attention is paid bv Bums. There is 
scarcely a single song of his in which particu- 
lar scenery is not described, or allusions made 
to natural objects, rema^able for beauty or in- 
terest i and though his descriptions are not so 
full as are sometimes met with in the older 
Scottish songs, they are in the highest de- 
gree appropriate and interesting. Instances 
in proof of this might be quoted from the Lea 
Rigj Highland Mary, the Soldier's Return, 
Logan Watery from that beautiful pastoral, 
Bonnie Jean, and a great number of others. 
Occasionally the force of his genius carries him 
beyond the usual boundaries of Scottish song, 
and the natural objects introduced have more of 
the character of sublimity. An instance of 
this kind is noticed by Mr Syme, f and many 
others might be adduced. 

•* Had I a cave on some wild, disUuit shore. 
Where the winds howl to the wave's dashing roar ; 
There would 1 weep my woes, 

* A lady, of whose genius the editor entertains high 
admiration (Mrs Barbauld), has fallen into an error In 
thi^ respect In her prefatory address to the works of 
Collins, speaking of the natural objects that may be 
employed to give interest to the descriptions of passion, 
slie observes, ** they present an inexhaustible variety, 
from the Song of Solomon, breathing of cassia, myrrh, 
and cinnamon, to the Gentle Shepherd of Ramsay, 
whttse damsels carry their milking.paila through the 
frosts and snows of their less genial, out not less pastoral 
country." The dninseln of Ramsay do not walk in th« 
midst of fntst and snow.— Almost all the scenes of the 
Gentle Shepherd are laid in the open air, amidst beau- 
tiful natural objects, and at the most genial season of 
the year. Ramsay introduces all his acis with a pre- 
fatory descnption to assure us of this, llie fault of the 
climate of Britain is not, that it does not afford us the 
beauties of Bummer^ but that the season of such beauties 
is comparatively short, and even uncertain. There are 
days aud nights even in the northern division of the 
isliiiid, which equal, or perhaps, surpass what are to be 
found in the latitude of Sicily or of Greece. Buchanan, 
when he wrote his exquisite Ode to May, felt the charm 
as well as the transieotness of these happy days : 

Salve fogacis gloria seculi. 
Salve secunda digna dies nota. 

Salve vetust» vita imago, 

£t specimen venientis ! 

\ See page Ixvu 

There seek my lost repose. 
Till grief my eyes should close 
Ne'er to wake more. ** 

In one song, the scene of which is laid in 
a winter night, the ** wan moon " is described 
as " setting behind the white waves *'; in an- 
other, the "storms •' are apostrophized, and com- 
manded to "rest in the cave of their slumbers." 
On several occasions, the genius of Bums loses 
sight entirely of his archetypes, and rises into 
a strain of uniform sublimity. Instances of 
this kind appear in Liberty^ o, Vision, and in 
his two war-songs, Bruce to his troops, and 
the Song of Death, These last are of a de- 
scription of which we have no other in our 
language. The martial songs of our nation 
are not military, but naval. If we were to seek 
a comparison of these songs of Bums with 
others of a similar nature, we must have re- 
course to the poetry of ancient Greece, or of 
modem Gaul. 

Burns has made an important addition to the 
songs of Scotland. In his compositions, the 
poetry equals and sometimes surpasses the 
music. He has enlarged the poetical scenery 
of his country. Many of her rivers and motm- 
tains, formerly unknown to the muse, are now 
consecrated by his immortal verse. The Doon, 
the Lugar, the Ayr, the Nith, and the Cluden, 
will in future, like the Yarrow, the Tweed, and 
the Tay, be considered as classic streams, and 
their borders will be trode with new and superi- 
or emotions. 

The greater part of the songs of Bums were 
written after he removed into the county of 
Dumfries. Influenced, perhaps, by habits 
formed in early life, he usually composed while 
walking in the open air. When engaged in 
writing these songs, his favourite walks were 
on the banks of the Nith, or of the Cluden, 
particularly near the ruins of Lincluden Ab- 
bey ; and this beautiful scenery he has ver^ 
happily described under various aspects, as it 
appears during the softness and serenity of 
evening, and during the stillness and solemnity 
of the moon-light night 

There is no species of poetry, the produc- 
tions of the drama not excepted, so much cal- 
culated to influence the morals, as well as the 
happiness of a people, as those popular verses 
which are associated with the national airs, 
and which being learnt in the years of infancy, 
make a deep impression on the heart before 
the evolution of the powers of the understand- 
ing. The compositions of Burns, of this 
kind, now presented in a collected form to the 
world, make a most important addition to the 
popular songs of his nation. Like all his 
other writings, they exhibit independence of 
sentiment ; they are peculiarly cidculated to 
increase those ties which bind generous hearts 
to their native soil, and to the domestic circle 
of their infancy : and to cherish those sensibi. 
lities which, under due restriction, form th« 
purest happiness of our nature. If in hit 
unguarded moments he composed some songs 



on which this praise cannot be bestowed, let 
us hope that tney will speedily be forgotten. 
In several instances, where Scottish airs were 
allied to words objectionable in point of deli, 
cacy, Bums has substituted others of a purer 
character. On such occasions, without chang- 
ing the subject, he has changed the sentiments. 
A proof of this may be seen in the air of John 
Anderson my Joe^ which is now united to 
words that breathe a strain of conjugal tender- 
ness, that is as highly moral as it is exquisitely 

Few circumstances could afford a more 
striking proof of the strength of Bums's genius, 
than the general circulation of his poems in 
England, notwithstanding the dialect in which 
the greater part are written, and which might 
be supposed to render them here uncouth or 
obscure. In some instances he has used this 
dialect on subjects of a sublime nature ; but in 
general he confines it to sentiments or descrip- 
tion of a tender or humorous kind ; and, where 
he rises into elevation of thought, he assumes 
a purer English style. The singular faculty 
be possessed of mmgling in the same poem 
humorous sentiments and descriptions, with 
imagery of a sublime and terrific nature, ena- 
bled him to use this variety of dialect on some 
occasions with striking effect. His poem of 
Tarn o' Shanter affords an instance of this. 
There he passes from a scene of the lowest 
humour, to situations of the most awful and 
terrible kind. He is a musician that runs 
from the lowest to the highest of his keys ; 
and the use of the Scottish dialect enables 
him to add two additional notes to the bottom 
of his scale. 

Great efforts have been made by the inha- 
bitants of Scotland, of the superior ranks, to 
approximate in their speech to the pure Eng. 
lish standard ; and this has made it difficult to 
write in the Scottish dialect, without exciting 
in them some feelings of disgust, which in 
England are scarcely felt. An Englishman 
who understands the meaning of the Scottish 
words, is not offended, nay, on certain subjects, 
he is perhaps pleased with the rustic dialect, 
as he may be with the Doric Greek of Theo- 

But a Scotchman inhabiting his own coun 
try, if a man of education, and more especially 
if a literary character, has banished such words 
from his writings, and has attempted to banish 
them from his speech ; and being accustomed 
to hear them from the vulgar daily, does not 
easily admit of their use in poetry, which re- 
quires a style elevated and ornamental. A 
dislike of this kind is, however, accidental, not 
natural. It is of the species of disgust which 
we feel at seeing a female of high birth in the 
dress of a rustic ; which if she be really young 
and beautiful, a little habit will enable us to 
overcome. A lady who assumes such a dress 
puts her beauty, indeed, to a severer trial. 
She rejects — she, indeed, opposes the influence 
of fashion ; she, possibly, abandons the grace 

of elegant and flowing drapery ; but her native 
charms remain, the more striking, perhaps, 
because the less adorned; and to these she 
trusts for fixing her empire on those affections 
over which fashion has no sway. If she suc- 
ceeds, a new assodatioa arises. The dress of 
the beautiful rustic becomes itself beautiful, 
and establishes a new fashion for the young 
and the gay. And when, in after ages, the 
contemplative observer shall view her picture 
in the gallery that conUuns the portraits of the 
beauties of successive centuries, each in the 
dress of her respective day, her drapery will 
not deviate, more than that of her rivals, from 
the standard of his taste, and he will give the 
palm to her who excels in the lineaments of 

Burns wrote professedly for the peasantry 
of his country, and by them their native dialect 
is universally relished. To a numerous class 
of the natives of Scotland of another de8cri|». 
tion, it may also be considered as attractive m 
a different point of view. Estran^d from 
their native soil, and spread over foreign lands, 
the idiom of their country unites with the 
sentiments and the descriptions on which it is 
employed, to recall to their minds the interest- 
ing scenes of infancy and youth — to awaken 
many pleasing, many tender recollections. 
Literary men, residing at EdinbuiKh or Aber- 
deen, cannot judge on this point for one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand of their expatriated 

To the use of the Scottish dialect in one 
species of poetry, the composition of songs, 
the taste of the public has been for some time 
reconciled. The dialect in question excels, as 
has already been observed, in the copiousness 
and exactness of its terms for natural objects ; 
and in pastoral or rural songs, it gives a Doric 
simplicity, whidi is very generally approved. 
Neither does the regret seem well founded 
which some persons of taste have expressed, 
that Bums used this dialect in so many other 
of his compositions. His declared purpose 
was to paint the manners of rustic life among 
his " humble compeers,** and it is not easy to 
conceive, that this could have been done with 
equal humour and effect, if be had not adopted 
their idiom. There are some, indeed, who 
will think the subject too low for poetrir. 
Persons of this sickly taste will find their 
delicacies consulted in many a polite and 
learned author ; let them not seek for gretifi- 

* These observatioDS are excited by some remarks of 
respectable correspondents of the di'scription alluded to. 
This calculation or the number of Scotchmen living out 
of Scotland is not altogether arbitrary, md it is probably 
below the tiruth. It is, in some degree, founded on the 
proportion between the number of the sexes in ScoU 
landf as it appears from the invaluable Statistics of Sir 
John Sinclair. — For Scotchmen of thia description more 
particularly. Burns seems to have written his song be- 
ginning, Their groves o* sweet myrt'e^ % beautiful strain, 
which, it may be confidently predicted, will be sung 
with equal nr superior interest, on the banks of the 
Ganges or of the Mississippi, as on those of the TSy on 
the Tweed. 



cation in the rough and vigorous lines, in the 
unbridled humour, or in the overpowering 
sensibility of this bard of nature. 

To determine the comparative merit of 
Bums would be no easy task. Many persons 
afterwards distinguished in literature, have 
been bom in as humbler situation of life ; but 
it would be difficult to find any other who 
while earning his subsistence by daily labour, 
has written verses which have attracted and 
retained universal attention, and which are 
likely to give the author a permanent and dis- 
tinguished place among the followers of the 
muses. If he is deficient in grace, he is dis- 
tinguished for ease as well as energy ; and these 
are indications of the higher order of genius. 
The father of epic poetry exhibits one of his 
heroes as excelling in strength, another in 
swiftness — to form his perfect warrior, these 
attributes are combined. Every species of 
intellectual superiority admits, perhaps, of a 
similar arrangement. One writer excels in 
force — another in ease ; be is superior to them 
both, in whom both these qualities are united. 
Of Homer himself it may be said, that like 
his own Achilles, he surpasses his competi- 
tors in mobility as well as strength. 

The force of Bums lay in the powers of hia 
understanding, and in the sensibility of his 
heart ; and these will be found to infuse the 
living principle into all the works of genius 
which seem destined to immortality. His 
sensibility had an uncommon range. He was 
alive to every species of emotion. He is one 
of the few poets that can be mentioned, who 
have at once excelled in humour, in tenderness, 
and in sublimity ; a praise unknown to the 
ancients, and which in modem times is only 
due to Ariosto, to Shakspeare, anA perhaps to 
Voltaire. To compare the writings of the 
Scottish peasant with the works of these giants 
in literature, might appear presumptuous ; yet 
it may be asserted that he has displayed the 
foot of Hercules. How near he might have 
approached them by proper culture, with 
lengthened years, and under happier auspices, 
it is not for us to calculate. But while we 
run over the melancholy story of his life, it is 
impossible not to heave a sign at the asperity 
of his fortune ; and as we survey the records 
of his mind, it is easy to see, that out of such 
materials have been reared the fairest and the 
most durable of the monuments of geniua. 




A GREAT number of poems have been written on the death of Buans, some of them of con- 
siderable poetical merit To have subjoined all of them to the present edition, would have 
been to have enlarged it to another volume at least; and to have made a selection, 
would have been a task of considerable delicacy. 

The Editor, therefore, presents one poem only on this melancholy subject ; a poem which has 
not before appeared in print It is from the pen of one who has sympathized deeply in the 
fate of Burns, and will not be found unworthy of its author — the Biographer of Lorenzo dt? 
Medici Of a person so well known, it is wholly unnecessary for the Editor to speak ; and, 
if it were necessary, it would not be easy for him to find language that would adequately ex- 
press his respect and his affection. 

Hear high thy bleak m^estic hills, 

Thy sheltered valleys proudly spread, 
And, Scotia, pour thy tnousand rills, 

And wave thy heaths with blossoms red * 
But ah ! what poet now shall tread 

Thy airy heights, thy woodland reign, 
Since he, the sweetest bard, is dead, 

That ever breathed the soothing strain ! 

As green thy towering pines may grow, 

As clear thy streams may speed along, 
As bright thy summer suns may glow, 

As gaily charm thy feathery throng; 
But now, unheeded is the song. 

And dull and lifeless all around, 
For his wild harp lies all unstrung, 

And cold the hand that waked its sound. 

What tho* thy vigorous offspring rise 

In arts, in arms, thy sons excel ; 
Tho' beauty in thy daughters* eyes, 

And health in every feature dwell ; 
Yet who shall now their praises tell, 

In strains impassion'd, fond, and free, 
Since he no more the song shall swell 

To love, and liberty, and thee. 

With step-Kfame eye and frown severe 
His hapless youth why didst thou view? 

For all thy joys to hina were dear. 
And all his vows to thee were due ; 

Nor greater bless his bosom knew, 
In opening youth's delightful prime. 

Than when thy favouring ear he drew 
To listen to his chant^ rhyme. 

Thy lonely wastes and frowning skies 

To him were all with rapture fraught • 
He heard with joy the tempest rise 

That waked him to sublimer thought ; 
And oft thy winding dells he soufht, [fume. 

Where wild flowVs pour*d thrfr rathe per- 
And with sincere devotion brought 

To thee the summer's earliest bloom. 

But ah ! no fond maternal smile 

His unprotected youth enjoy *d, 
His limbs inurM to early toil, 

His days with early hardships tried ; 
And more to mark tne gloomy void, 

And bid him feel his misery, 
Before his infant eyes would glide 

Day-dreams of immortality. 

Yet, not by cold neglect depress'd. 

With sinewy arm he tum'd the sdil. 
Sunk with the evening sun to rest. 

And met at morn his earliest smile. 
W^aked by his rustic pipe, meanwhile 

The powers of fancy came along, 
And sooth'd his lengthened hours of toil, 

WMth native wit and sprightly song. 





No. I. 


I VERILY believe, my dear E. that the pure 
genuine feelings of love, are as rare in the 
world as the pure genuine principles of virtue 
and piety. This, I hope, will account for the 
uncommon style of all my letters to you. By 
uncommon, I mean, their being written in such 
a serious manner, which, to tell you the truth, 
has made me often afraid lest you should take 
me for a zealous bigot, who conversed with his 
mistress as he would converse with his minis- 
ter. I don't know how it is, my dear ; for 
though, except your company, there is nothing 
on earth that gives me so much pleasure as 
writing to you, yet it never gives me those 
giddy raptures so much talked of among lovers. 
I have often thought, that if a well-grounded af- 
fection be not really a part of virtue, 'tis some, 
thing extremely akin to it. Whenever the 
thought of my E. warms my heart, every feel- 
ing of humanity, every principle of generosity, 
kindles in my breast. It extinguishes every 
dirty »^park of malice and envy, which are but 
too apt to infest me. I grasp every creature 
in the arms of universal benevolence, and 
equally participate in the pleasures of the 
happy, and sympathise with the miseries of the 
unfortunate. I assure you, my dear, I often 
look up to the divine Disposer of events, with 
an eye of gratitude for the blessing which J 
nope he intends to bestow on me, in bestow- 
ing you. I sincerely wish that he may bless 
my endeavours to make your life as comfort, 
able and happy as possible, both in sweetening 
the rougher parts of my natural temper, and 
bettering the unkindly circumstances of n\y 
fortune. This, my dear, is a passion, at least 
in my view, worthy of a man, and I will add, 
worthy of a Christian. The sordid earth-worm 
may profess love to a woman's person, whilst, 
in reality, his affection is centered in her 
pocket ; and tlie slavish drudge may go a-woo- 
ing as he goes to the horse-market, to choose 
one who is stout and firm, and, as we may say 
of an old horse, one who will be a good drudge 
a^id draw kindly. I disdain their dirty, puny 

ideas. I would be heartily out of humoor 
with myself, if I thought I were capable of 
having so poor a notion of the sex, which 
were designed to crown the pleasures of so- 
ciety. Poor devils ! I don't envy them their 
happiness who havfc such notions. For my 
part, I propose quite other pleasures with my 
dear partner. • ♦ • • 

No. II. 



I DO not remember in the course of your ac- 
quaintance and mine, .ever to have beard your 
opinion on the ordinary way of falling in love, 
amongst people of our station of life : I do not 
mean the persons who proceed in the way of 
bargain, but those whose affection is really 
placed on the person. 

Though I be, as you know very well, but a 
very awkward lover myself, yet as I have some 
opportunities of observing the conduct of 
others who are much better skilled in the af- 
fair of courtship than I am, I often think it is 
owing to lucky chance more than to good 
management, that there are not more unhappy 
marriages than usually are. 

It is natural for a young fellow to like the 
acquaintance of the females, and customary 
for h5m to keep them company when occasion 
serves some one of them is more agreeable to 
him than the rest ; there is something, he 
knows not what, pleases him, he knows not 
how, in hercompuiiy. This I take to be what 
is called love with the greatest part of us, and 
J must own, my dear E. it is a hard gam« 
such a one as you have to play when you meet 
with such a lover. You cannot refuse but be 
is sincere, and yet though you use him ever so 
favourably, perhaps in a few months, or at 
farthest in a year or two, the same unaccount- 
able fancy may make him as distractedly fond 
of another, whilst you are quite forgot. I am 
aware, that perhaps the next time I have th« 
pleasure of seeing you, you may bid me take 
my own lesson home, and tell me that the pas- 
sion I have professed for you is perhaps one of 




those transient flashes I have been describing ; 
but I hope, my dear E. you will do me the 
justice to believe me, when I assure you, that 
the love I have for you is founded on the sa- 
cred principles of virtue and honour, and by 
consequence, so long as you continue possessed 
of those amiable qualities which first inspired 
my passion for you, so long must I continue 
to love you. Believe me, my dear, it is love 
like this alone which can render the married 
state happy. People may talk of flames and 
raptures as long as they please ; and a warm 
fancy with a How of youthful spirits, may make 
them feel something like what they describe ; 
but sure I am, the nobler faculties of the mind, 
with kindre<l feeliFigs of the heart, can only be 
the foundation of friendship, and it has always 
been my opinion, that the married life was 
only friendship in a more exalted degree. 

If you will be so good as to grant my wishes, 
and it should please providence to spare us to 
the latest periods of life, I can look forward 
and see, that even then, though bent down 
with wrinkled age ; even then, when all other 
worldly circumstances will be indiflferent to 
me. I will regard my E. with the tenderest 
affection, and for this plain reason, because she 
is still possessed of those noble qualities, im. 
proved to a much higher degree, which first 
mspired my affection for her. 

*' O ! happy state, when souls each other draw 
•• Wlien love is liberty, aud nature Jaw." 

I know, were I to speak such a style to 
.nany a girl who thinku herself possessed of no 
small share of sense, she would think it ridi< 
culous — but the language of the heart is, my 
dear £., the only courtship I shall ever use to 

When I look over what I have written, I 
am sensible it is vastly different from the ordi. 
nary style of courtship — but I shall make no 
apology — I know your good nature will excuse 
what your good sense may see amiss. 

No. III. 



I HAVE often thought it a peculiarly unlucky 
circumstance in love, that though, in every 
other situation in life, telling the truth is not 
only the safest, but actually by far the easiest 
way of proceeding, a lover is never under 
greater difficulty in acting, or more puzzled for 
expression, than when his passion is sincere, 
and his intentions are honourable. I do not 
think that it is very difficult for a person of 
ordinary capacity to talk of love and fondness, 
which are not felt, and to make vows of con- 
stancy and fidelity, which are never intended 
to be performed, if he be villain enough to 
practise such detestable conduct: but to a 

man whose heart glows with the principles of 
integrity and truth ; and who sincerely loves a 
woman of amiable person, uncommon refine- 
ment of sentiment, and purity of manners — to 
such a one, in such circumstances, I can assure 
you, my dear, from my own feelings at this 
present moment, courtship is a task indeed. 
There is such a number of foreboding fears, 
and distrustful anxieties crowd into my mind 
when I am in your company, or when I sit 
down to write to you, that what to speak or 
what to write I am altogether at a loss. 

There is one rule which I have hitherto 
practised, and which I shall invariably keep 
with you, and that is, honestly to tell you the 
plain truth. There is something so mean and 
unmanly in the arts of dissimulation and false- 
hood, that I am surprised they can be used by 
any one in so noble, so generous a passion as 
virtuous love. No, my dear £. I shall never 
endeavour to gain your favour by such detest- 
able practices. If you will be so good and so 
generous as to admit me for your partner, your 
companion, your bosom friend through life ; 
there is nothing on this side of eternity shall 
give me greater transport; but I shall never 
think of purchasing your hand by any arts un- 
worthy of a man, ana I will add of a Christian. 
There is one thing, my dear, which I earnest- 
ly request of you, and it is this ; that you 
would soon either put an end to my hopes by 
a peremptory refusal, or cure me of my fears 
by a generous consent. 

It would oblige me much if you would send 
me a line or two when convenient. I shall 
only add further, that if a behaviour regulat- 
ed (though perhaps but very imperfectly) by 
the rules of honour and virtue, if a heart de- 
voted to love and esteem you, and an earnest 
endeavour to promote your happiness ; and if 
these are qualities you would wish in a friend, 
in a husband ; I hope you shall ever find them 
in your real friend and sincere lover. 

No. IV. 


I OUGHT in good manners to have acknowledg. 
ed the receipt of your letter before this time, 
but my heart was so shocked with the con- 
tents of it, that I can scarcely yet collect my 
thoughts so as to write to you on the subject. 
I will not attempt to describe what I ielt on 
receiving your letter. I read it over and over, 
again and -again, and though it m as in the po- 
litest language of refusal, still it was peremp. 
tory ; ** you were sorry you could not make 
me n return, but you wish me" what, without 
vou, I never can obtain, *<you wish me i^l 
kind of happiness." It would be weak and 
unmanly to say, that without you I never can 
be happy, but sure I am, that sharing life 



With you, would have given it a reli&b, that, 
wanting you, I never can taste. 

Your uncommon personal advantages, and 
your superior good sense, do not so much 
fctrike me ; these, possibly in a few instances, 
may be met with in others ; but that amiable 
goodness, that tender feminir.e softness, that 
endearing sweetness of disposition, with all the 
charming offspring oi a warm feeling heart— 
these I never again expect to meet with in such 
a degree in this world. All these charming 
qualities, heightened by an education much be. 
yond any thing I have ever met with in any 
woman I ever dared to approach, have made 
an impression on my heart that I do not think 
the world can ever efface. My imagination 
has fondly flattered itself with a wish, I dare 
not say it ever reached a hope, that possibly I 
might one day call you mine. I had formed 
the most delightful images, and my fancy fond, 
ly brooded over them ; but now I am wretch- 
ed for the loss of what I really had no right to 
expect I must now think no more of you as 
a mistress, still I presume to ask to be admit- 
ted as a friend. As such I wish to be allow- 
ed to wait on you, and as I expect to remove 
in a few days a little farther off*, and you, I sup- 
pose, will perhaps soon leave this place, I wish 
to see you or hear from you soon ; and if an 
expression should perhaps escape me rather 
too warm for friendship, I hope you will par- 
don it in, m;^ dear Miss , (pardon me the 

dear expression for once.) • • • 

No. V. 



DEAR SIR, Lochlee, \5th January, 1783. 

As I have an opportunity of sending you a 
letter, without putting you to that expense 
which any production of mine would but ill 
repay, I embrace it with pleasure, to tell you 
that I have not forgotten, nor ever will forget, 
the many obligations I lie under to your kind- 
ness and friendship. 

I do not doubt. Sir, but you -will wish to 
know what has been the result of all the pains 
of an indulgent father, and a masterly teacher ; 
and I wish I could gratify your curiosity with 
such a recital as you would be pleased with ; 
but that is what I am afraid will not be the 
case. I have, indeed, kept pretty clear of 
vicious habits ; and in this respect, J hope, my 
conduct will not disgrace the education I have 
gotten ; but as a man of the world, I am most 
miserably deficient. — One would have thought, 
that bred as I have been, under a father who 
bus figured pretty well as un homme des affaires, 
i nught have been what the world calls a push- 

ing, nctive fellow ; but, to tell you t^.e truth, 
Sir, there is hardly any thing more my reverse. 
I seem to be one sent into the world to see, 
and observe j and I very easily compound with 
the knave who tricks me of my money, if 
there be any thing original about him which 
shows me human nature in a different light 
from any thing I have seen before. In short, 
the joy of my heart is to *' study men, their 
manners, and their ways ;" and for this darling 
subject, I cheerfully sacrifice every other con- 
sideration. I am quite indolent about those 
great concerns that set the bustling busy sons 
of care agog ; and if I have to answer for the 
present hour, I am very easy with regard to 
any thing further. Even the last, worst shift* 
of the unfortunate and the wretched, does not 
much terrify me : I know that even then my 
talent for what country folks call " a sensible 
crack," when once it is sanctified by a hoary 
head, would procure me so much esteem, that 
even then — 1 would learn to be happy. How- 
ever, I am under no apprehensions about that ; 
for, though indolent, yet, so far as an extreme- 
ly delicate constitution permits, I am not lazy; 
and in many things, especially in tavern matters, 
1 am a strict economist; not indeed for the 
sake of the money, but one of the principal 
parts in my composition is a kind of pride of 
stomach, and I scorn to fear the face of any 
man living : above every thing, I abhor as hell, 
the idea, of sneaking in a corner to avoid a dun 
— possibly some pitiful, sordid wretch, who in 
my heart I despise and detest. 'Tis this, and 
this alone, that endears economy to me. In 
the matter of books, indeed, I am very profuse. 
My favourite authors are of the sentimentai 
kind, such as Shenstonej particularly his J./ie- 
gies : Thomson,; Man of FeeUngy a book 1 
prize next to the Bible ; Man of the World ; 
Sleme, especially his Sentimental Journey; 
Macpher son's Ossian, &c. These are the 
glorious models after which I endeavour to 
form my conduct ; and 'tis incongruous, 'tis 
absurd, to suppose that the man whose mind 
glows with sentiments lightened up at their 
sacred flame^the man whose heart distends 
with benevolence to all the human race — be 
** who can soar above this little scene of things," 
can he descend to mind the paltry concerns 
about which the terraefilial race fret, and fume, 
and vex themselves ? O how the glorious tri- 
umph swells my heart ! I forget that I am a 
poor insignificant devil, unnoticed and un- 
known, stalking up and down fairs and mar- 
kets, when I happen to be in them, reading a 
page or two of mankind, and *' catching the 
manners living as they rise," whilst the men of 
business jostle me on every side as an idle en- 
cumbrance in their way.— But I dare say I 
have by this time tired your patience; so I 
shall conclude with begging you to give Mrs 
Murdoch — ^not my coirplinsents, for that is a 

* The last bhift alluded to here, must bo the cor.dU 
lion of an itinerant b«^gar. 

A 2 


mere common-place story, but — my warmest, 
kindest wishes for her welfare ; and accept of 
the same for yourself, from, 

Dear Sir, 

Yours, &c. 

No. VI. 

[The following I* taken from the MS. prose presented 
by our Bard to Mr Riddel.] 

On rummaging over some old papers, I light- 
ed on a MS. of my early years, in which I had 
determined to write myself out, as I w^as placed 
by fortune among a class of men to whom my 
ideas would have been nonsense. I had 
meant that the book should have lain by me, 
in the fond hope that, some time or other, even 
after I was no more, my thoughts would fall 
inro the hands of somebody capable of appre- 
ciating their value. It sets off thus : 

Observations, flints^ SongSt Scraps of Poe" 
tri/f jcc. by R. B. — a man who had little art in 
makmg money, and still less in keeping it ; but 
was, however, a man of some sense, and a great 
deal of honesty, and unbounded good-will to 
every creature, rational and irrational. As he 
was but little indebted to scholastic education, 
and bred at a plough-tail, his performances must 
be strongly tinctured with his unpolished rustic 
way of life ; but as I believe tney are really 
his own, it may be some entertainment to a 
curious observer of human nature, to see how 
a ploughman thinks and feels, under the pres- 
sure of love, ambition, anxiety, grief, with the 
like cares and passions, which, however diver- 
sified by the modes and manners of life, operate 
pretty much alike, I believe, on all the species. 

<* There are numbers in the world who do 
not want sense to make a figure, so much as 
an opinion of their own abilities, to put them 
upon recording their observations, and allowing 
them the same importance which they do to 
those which appear in print." — Shenstone. 

*' Pleasing, when youth is long expired, to trace 
The forms our pencil, or our pen designed ! 

Such was our vouthful air, and shape, and face, 
Such the soft image of our youthful mind.'* 


April, I79a 
Notwithstanding all that has been said against 
love, respecting the folly and weakness it leads 
a young mexperienced mind into ; still I think 
it in a great measure deserves the highest en- 
comiums that have been passed on it. K any 
thing on earth deserves the name of rapture or 
transport, it is the feelings of green eighteen, 
in the company of the mistress of his heart, 
when she repays him with an equal return of 

There is certainly some coDnection between 
love, and music, and poetry ; and, therefore, 
I have always thought a fine touch of nature, 
that passage in a modern love composition : 

** As tow'rd her cot, he jogg'd along. 
Her name was frequent in nis song.** 

For my own part, I never had the least 
thought or inclination of turning poet, till I 
got once heartily in love ; and then rhyme and 
song were, in a manner, the spontaneous lan- 
guage of my heart. 

I entirely agree with that judicious philoso- 
pher, Mr Smith, in his excellent Theory of 
Moral Sentiments, that remorse is the most 
painful sentiment that can embitter the human 
bosom. Any ordinary pitch of fortitude may 
bear up tolerably well, under those calamities, 
in the procurement of which we ourselves have 
had no hand ; but when our follies or crimes 
have made us miserable and wretched, to bear 
up with manly firmness, and at th^ same time 
have a proper penitential sense of our miscon- 
duct, is a glorious effort of self command. 

Of all tne numerous ills that hurt our peace. 
That press the soul, or wring the mina with an 

Beyond comparison the worst are those 
That to our tolly or our guilt we owe. 
In every other circumstance, the mind 
Has this to say — " It was no deed of mine ;" 
But when to all the evil of misfortune 
This sting is added— *< Blame thy foolish self 1** 
Or worser far, the pangs of keen remorse ; 
The torturiM, gnawing consciousness of guilt— 
Of guilt, peraajis, where we*ve involved others ; 
The young, the innocent, who fondly loved us. 
Nay, more, tliat very love their cause of ruin 1 
O burning hell ! in all thy store of torments. 
There's not a keener lash ! 
Lives there a man so firm, who, while his heat 
Feels all the bitter horrors of his crime. 
Can reason down its agonizing throbs ; 
And, after proper purpose of amendment. 
Can firmlv force his jarring thoughts to peace ! 
O, happy ! happy ! enviable man ! 
O glorious magnanimity of soul. 

March, 1784. 
I have often observed, in the course of my 
experience of human life, that every man, even 
the worst, has some'chiug good about him; 
though very often nothing else than a happy 
temperament of constitution inclining him to 
this or that virtue. For this reason, no man 
can say in what degree any other person, be- 
sides himself, can be, with strict justice, called 
wicked. Let any of the strictest character for 
regularity of conduct among us, examine im- 
partially how many vices be has never been 
guilty of, not from any care or vigilance, but 



for wain of opportunity, or some accidental 
niroumstance intervening; how many of the 
weaknesses of mankind be has escaped, be- 
cause he was out of the line of such tempta- 
tion ; and, what often, if not always weighs 
more than all the rest, how much he is indebt- 
ed to the world's good opinion, because the 

world docs not know all : I say, any man who 
can thus think, will scan the failings, nay, the 
faults and crimes, of mankind around him, 
with a brother's eye. 

I have often courted the acquaintance of 
that part of mankind commonly known by the 
ordinary phrase of hlackguardsy sometimes far- 
ther than was consistent with the safety of my 
character ; those who, by thoughtless prodiga- 
lity or headstrong passions, have been driven 
to ruin. Though disgraced by follies, nay, 
sometimes ** stained with guilt, * • • 
• • *," I have yet found among them, 
in not a few instances, some of the noblest 
virtues, magnanimity, generosity, disinterested 
friendship, and even modesty. 

As I am what the men of the world, if they 
knew such a man, would call a whimsical mor- 
tal, I have various sources of pleasure and en- 
joyment, which are, in a manner, peculiar to 
myself, or some here and there such other out- 
of-the-way person. Such is the peculiar plea- 
sure I take in the season of winter, more than 
the rest of the year. This, I believe, may be 
partly owing to my misfortunes giving my 
mind a melancholy cast: but there is some- 
thing even in the 

** Mighty tempest, and the hoary waste 
Abrupt and deep, slreich'd o'er the buried 

which raises the mind to a serious sublimity, 
favourable to every thing great and noble. 
There is scarcely any earthly object gives me 
more — I do not know if I should call it plea- 
sure — but something which exalts me, some- 
thing which enraptures me — than to walk in 
the sheltered side of the wood, or high planta- 
tion, in a cloudy winter-day, and hear the 
stormy wind howling among the trees, and 
raving over the plain. It is my best season 
for devotion : my mind is wrapt up in a kind 
of enthusiasm to Himy who, in the pompous 
language ot the Hebrew burd, " walks on the 
wings of the wind." In one of these seasons, 
just atter a train of misfortunes, I composed 
the following : 

Tile wintry west extends his blast, &c. 

Sec Songs. 

Shenstone finely observes, that love- verses, 
writ without any real passion, are the most 
nauseous of all conceits -, and I have often 

thought that no man can be a proper critic of 
love-composition, except he himself, in one or 
more instances, have been a warm votary of 
this passion. As I have been all along a 
miserable dupe to love, and have been led into 
a thousand weaknesses and follies by it, for 
that reason I put the more confidence in my 

ci'itlctil skill, in distinguishing foppery, and con- 
ceit, from real passion and nature. Whether 
the following song will stand the test, I will 
not pretend to say, because it is my own ; only 
I can say it was at the time, genuine from the 

Behind yon hills, &c. 

See Songs 

I think the whole species of young men 
may be naturally enough divided into two 
grand classes, which I shall call the grave and 
the meiry ; though, by the bye, these terms do 
not with propriety enough express my ideas. 
The grave I shall cast into the usual division 
of those who are goaded on by the love of 
money, and those whose darling wish is to 
make a figure in the world. The merry are, 
the men of pleasure of all denominations ; the 
jovial lads, who have too much fire and spirit 
to have any settled rule of action ; but with- 
out much deliberation, follow the strong im- 
pulses of nature ; the thoughtless, the careless, 
the indolent — in particular he, who, with a 
happy sweetness of natural temper, and a 
cheerful vacancy of thought, steals through life 
— generally, indeed, in poverty and obscurity ; 
but poverty and obscurity are only evils to him 
who can sit gravely down and make a repinitig 
comparison between his own situation and that 
of others ; and lastly to grace the quorum, such 
are, generally, those heads are capable of all 
the towerings of genius, and whose hearts are 
warmed with all the delicacy of feeling. 

As the grand end of human life is to culti- 
vate an intercourse with that Being to whom 
we owe life, with every enjoyment that can 
render life delightful ; and to maintain an in- 
tegritive conduct towards our fellow-creatures ; 
that so, by forming piety and virtue into habit, 
we may be fit members for that society ot the 
pious and the good, which reason and revela- 
tion teach us to expect beyond the grave : I 
do not see that the turn ot mind, and pursuits 
of any son of poverty and obscurity, are in the 
least more inimical to the sacred interests of 
piety and virtue, than the, even lawful, bustling 
and straining after the world's riches and hon- 
ours ; and I do not see but that he may gain 
Heaven as well (which, by the bye, is no mean 
consideration), who steals through the vale of 
life, amusing himself with every little flower 
that fortune throws in his way ; as he who, 
straining straight forward, and perhaps bespat- 
tering all about him, gains some of lii'e's little 



So you have obtained liberty from the ma. 
gistrates to erect a stone over Fergu8son*8 
grave ? I do not doubt it ; such things have 
been, as Sbakspeare says, ** in the olden-time-'* 

" The poet's fate, is here in emblem shown. 
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone. ** 

It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb 
that this is written. But how many brothers 
of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor 
Fergusson, have asked for bread, and been 
served with the same sauce ! 

Tbe magistrates gave you hherhf^ did they ? 
O generous magistrates !****, celebrated 
over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, 
gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a 
poor poet's memory ! — most generous ! ♦ ♦ • 
once upon a time gave that same poet the 
mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of 
his works. But then it must be considered 
that the poet was at this time al>solutely starv- 
ing, and besought his- aid with all the earnest- 
ness of hunger ; and, over and above, he re- 
ceived a worth, at least one- third of 

the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, 
the poet afterwards very ungratefully expunged. 

Next week I hope to have the pleasure of 
seeing you in Edinburgh ; and as my stay will 

be for eight or ten days, I wish you or 

would take a snug, well- aired bed-room for 
me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing 
you over a morning cup of tea. But by all 
accounts, it will be a matter of some difficulty 
to see you at all, unless your company is be- 
spoke a week before-hand. There is a great 
rumour here concerning your great intimacy 

with the Duchess of , and other ladies 

of distinction. I am really told that ** cards 
to invite fly by thousands each night ;*' and, if 
you had one, I suppose there would also be 
** bribes to your old secretary.** It seems you 
are resolved to make hiy while the sun shines, 
and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fer- 
gusson, Quccrenda pe- 

cunia primum esty virtus post nummost is a good 
maxim to thrive by : you seemed to despise it 
while in this country ; but probably some phi- 
losopher in Edinburgh has taught you better 

Pray, are you yet engraving as w^ell as print- 
ing ? — Are you yet seized 

*• With itch of picture In the front, 
Wllh ba}'s of wicked rhyme upon*t !" 

But I must give up this trifling, and attend 
to matters that more concern myself: so, as 
the Aberdeen wit says, adieu aryly, we sal 
drink phan we meet. * 

* The above extract U from a letter of one of the 
ablest of our poet's correspondents, which contains 
■oroe InteresttDg anecdotes of^Fergusson, that we should 
have been happy to have inserted, if they coold bare 
been auUiontkcated. The writer Is mistaken In sappoe. 

No. XXV. 

MADAM, Edinburgh, March 22, 1787. 
I BEAD your letter with watery eyes. A littl^ 
very little while ago, / had scarce a fiiend bMi 
the stubborn pride of my own bosom ; now I am 
distinguished, patronized, befriended by you. 
Your friendly advices, I will not give them the 
cold name oi criticisms, I receive with reve- 
rence. I have made some small alterations in 
what I before had printed. I have the advice 
of some very judicious friends among the lite- 
rati here, but with them I sometimes fiitd it 
necessary to claim the privilege of thinking for 
mvself. The noble Earl of Glencaim, to 
WDom I owe more than to any man, does me 
the honour of giving me his strictures : his 
hints with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, 
I follow implicitly. 

You kindly interest yourself in my future 
views and prospects ; there I can give you no 
light ; it is all 

*< Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun 
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams 
Athwart the gloom profound.*' 

The appellation of a Scottish bard is bjr far 
my highest pride ; to continue to deserve it is 
my most exalted ambition. Scottish scenes and 
Scottish story are the themes I could wish to 
sing. I have no dearer aim than to have it in 
my power, unplagued with the routine of busi- 
ness, for which heaven knows I am unfit 
enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through 
Caledonia ; to sit on the fields of her battles ; 
to wander on the romantic banks of her rivers ; 
and to muse by the stately towers or venerable 
ruins, once tbe honoured abodes of her heroes. 

But these are all Utopian thoughts : I have 
dallied long enough with life : 'tis time to be 
in earnest. I have a fond, an aged mother to 
care fur ; and some other bosom ries perhaps 
equally tender. Where the individiud only 
suffers by the consequences of his own thought- 
lessness, indolence, or folly, he may be excus- 
able : na^, shining abilities, and some of tbe 
nobler virtues, may half-sanctify a heedless 
character : but where Grod and nature have 
intrusted the welfare of others to his care ; 
where the trust is sacred, and the ties are dear, 
that man must be far gone in selfishness, or 
strangely lost to reflection, whom these con- 
nexions will not rouse to exertion. 

I guess that I shall clear between two and 
three himdred pounds by my authorship ; with 
that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to 

ing the magistrates of Edinburgh had any share in tha 
transaction respecting the monument erected for Fer- 
gusson by our bard ; this, it is evident, passed between 
Bums and the Kirk Session at the Canongate. Neither 
at Edinburgh, nor anywhere else, do magistrates mu- 
ally trouble themselves to inquire how the house of a 
poor poet ii« famished, or how his grave Ir adorned. 


Since I wrote the foregoing sheet, 1 have 
seen something of the storm of mischief thiek- 
ejiing over my foll?-de voted head. Should 
vou, my friends, my benefactors, be successful 
in your applications for me, perhaps it may not 
be in my power in that way to reap the fruit 
of your friendly efforts. "What I have written 
in the preceding pages is the settled tenor of 
my present resolution ; but should inimical 
circumstances forbid me closing with your kind 
offer, or, enjoying it, only threaten to entail 
farther misery — 

To tell the tnith, I have little reason for 
this last complaint, as the world, in general, 
has been kind to me, fully up to my deserts. 
I was, for some time past, fast getting into the 
pining distrustful snarl of the misanthrope. I 
saw myself alone, unfit for the struggle of life, 
shrinking at every rising cloud in the chance, 
directed atmosphere of fortune, while, all de- 
fenceless, I looked about in vain for a cover. 
It never occurred to me, at least never with the 
force it deserved, that this world is a busy 
scene, and man a creature destined for a pro- 
gressive struggle ; and that, however I might 
possess a warm heart and inoffensive manners 
(which last, by the bye, was rather more than 
I could well boast,) still, more than these pas- 
sive qualities, there was something to be done. 
When all my school-fellows and youthful com. 
peers (those misguided few excepted, who join- 
ed, to use a Gentoo phrase, the haUachorea of 
the human race), were striking off with eager 
hope and earnest intent on some one or other 
of the many paths of busy life, I was '* stand- 
ing idle in the market place," or only left the 
clmse of the butterfly from flower to flower, to 
hunt fancy from whim to whim. 

Vou see. Sir, that if to know one's errors 
were a probability of mending them, I stand a 
fair chance ; but, according to the reverend 
Westminster divines, though conviction must 
precede conversion, it is very far from always 
implying it. • 

No. VIII. 


MADAM, Ayrshire, 1786. 

I AM truly sorry I was not at home yesterday, 
when I was so much honoured with your order 

♦ This letter was evidently written under the dis- 
tress of mind occasioned by our Poet's separation firom 
Mrs Barns 

for my copies, and incomparably more by the 
handsome compliments you are pleased to pay 
my poetic abilities. I am fully persuaded thf^ 
there is not any class of mankind so feelingly 
alive to the titillations of applause as the sons 
of Parnassus ; nor is it easy to conceive how 
the heart of the poor bard dances with rapture, 
when those whose character in life gives them 
a right to be polite judges, honour him with 
their approbation. Had you been thoroughly 
acquainted with me. Madam, you could not 
have touched my darling heart-chord more 
sweetly than by noticing my attempts to cele- 
brate your illustrious ancestor, the Saviour of 
his Country. 

" Great, patriot hero ! ill requited chief !" 

The first book I met with in my early years, 
which I perused with pleasure, u-as The Life 
of Hannibal : the next was The History of Sit 
\ViUiam Wallace: for several of my earlier 
years I had few other authors ; and many a 
solitary hour have I stole out, after the labori- 
ous vocations of the day, to shed a tear over 
their glorious but unfortunate stories. In 
those boyish days I remember in particular 
being struck with that part of Wallace's story 
where these lines occur— 

** Syne to the Leglen wood, when it was late, 
lo make a silent and a safe retreat" 

I chose a fine summer Sunday, the only day 
my line of life allowed, and walked half a dozen 
of miles to pay my respects to the Leglen 
wood, with as much devout enthusiasm as ever 
pilgrim did to Loretto; and, as I explored 
every den and dell where I could suppose my 
heroic countryman to have lodged, I recollect 
(for even then I was a rhymer), that my heart 
glowed with a wish to be able to make a song 
on him in some measure equal to his merits. 

No. IX. 


MADAM, 1786. 

The hurry of my preparations for going abroad 
has hindered me from performing my promise 
so soon as I intended. I have here sent you 
a parcel of songs, &c. which never made their 
appearance, except to a friend or two at most. 
Perhaps some of them may be no great enter- 
tainment to you : but of that I am far from 
being an adequate judge. The song to the 
tune of EUrick Banks, you will easily see the 
impropriety of exposing much even in manu. 
script. I think, myself, it has some merit, 
both as a tolerable description of one of Na- 
ture's sweetest scenes, a July evening, and 
one of the finest pieces of Nature's workman- 
ship, the finest indeed we know any thing of, 



So you have obtained liberty from the ma. 
gistrates to erect a stone over Fergusson's 
grave? I do not doubt it; such things have 
been, as Shakspeare says, **in the olden-time-" 

" The poet's fate, is hero in emblem shovni, 
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone. 


It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb 
that this is written. JEiut how many brothers 
of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor 
Fergusson, have asked for bread, and been 
served with the same sauce ! 

The magistrates gave you hberh/f did they ? 
O generous magistrates !****, celebrated 
over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, 
gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a 
poor poet's memory ! — most generous ! ♦ ♦ • 
once upon a time gave that same poet the 
mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of 
his works. But then it must be considered 
that; the poet was at this time al>solutely starv- 
ing, and besought his aid with all the earnest- 
ness of hunger ; and, over and above, he re- 
ceived a worth, at least one-third of 

the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, 
the poet afterwards very ungratefully expungtd. 

Next week I hope to have the pleasure of 
seeing you in Edinburgh ; and as my stay will 

be for eight or ten day8» I wish you or 

would take a snug, well- aired bed-room for 
me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing 
you over a morning cup of tea. But by all 
accounts, it will be a matter of some difficulty 
to see you at all, unless your company is be- 
spoke a week before-hand. There is a great 
rumour here concerning your great intimacy 

with the Duchess of , and other ladies 

of distinction. I am really told that ** cards 
to invite fly by thousands each night ;" and, if 
you had one, I suppose there would also be 
♦* bribes to your old secretary.'* It seems you 
are resolved to make hiy while the sun shines, 
and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fer- 
giissou, QtuBrenda pe- 
tunia primum csty virtus post nummosy is a good 
maxim to thrive by : you seemed to despise it 
while in this country ; but probably some phi- 
losopher in Edinburgh has taught you better 

Pray, are you yet engraving as well as print- 
ing ? — Are you yet seized 

*• With itch of picture in the front. 
With bays nf wicked rhyme upon*t !" 

But I must give up this trifling, and attend 
to matters that more concern myself: so, as 
the Aberdeen wit says, adieu dryly, we sal 
drink phan we meet.* 

* The above extract U from a letter of one of the 
ablest of our poet's curre8pondent8, which contains 
■ome interebting anecdotes of Fergusson, that we Bhoald 
have been happy to have inserted, if they eootd have 
been auUionticatcd. The writer i» mistulwQ In sappos- 

No. XXV. 

MADAM, Edinburgh, March 22, 1787. 
I READ your letter with watery eyes. A little, 
very little while ago, / had scarce a fiiend bui 
the stubborn pride of my own bosom ; now I am 
distinguished, patronized, befriended by you* 
Your friendly advices, I will not give them the 
cold name of criticisms, I receive with reve- 
rence. I have made some small alterations in 
what I before had printed. I have the advice 
of some very judicious friends among the lite- 
rati here, but with them I sometimes find it 
necessary to claim the privilege of thinking for 
myself. The noble Earl of Glencaim, to 
whom I owe more than to any man, does me 
the honour of giving me bis strictures : his 
hints with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, 
I follow implicitly. 

You kindly interest yourself in my future 
views and prospects j there I can give you no 
light ; it is ail 

*' Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun 
Was roil'd together, or had tried his beams 
Athwart the gloom profound." 

The appellation of a Scottish bard is by fkr 
my highest pride ; to continue to deserve it is 
my most exalted ambition. Scottish scenes and 
Scottish story are the themes I could wish to 
sing. I have no dearer aim than to have it in 
my power, unplagued with the routine of busi- 
ness, for which heaven knows I am unfit 
enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through 
Caledonia ; to sit on the fields of her battles ; 
to wander on the romantic bonks of her rivers \ 
and to muse by the stately towers or venerable 
ruins, once the honoured abodes of her heroes. 

But these are all Utopian thoughts : I have 
dallied long enough with life : 'tis time to be 
in earnest. I have a fond, an aged mother to 
care fur ; and some other bosom ues perhaps 
equally tender. Where the individual only 
suffers by the consequences of his own thought- 
lessness, indolence, or folly, he may be excus- 
able : nay, shining abilities, and some of the 
nobler virtues, may half- sanctify a heedless 
character : but where God and natiure have 
intrusted the welfare of others to his care ; 
where the trust is sacred, and the ties are dear, 
that man must be far gone in selfishness, or 
strangely lost to reflection, whom these con- 
nexions will not rouse to exertion. 

I guess that I shall clear between two and 
three hundred pounds by my authorship ; with 
that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to 

ing the magistrates of Edinburgh had any share in th« 
transaction respecting the monument erected for Fer. 
gusson by our bard ; this, it is evident, passed between 
Bums and the Kirlc Session of the Canongate. Neither 
at Edinburgh, nor anywhere else, do magistrates usu. 
ally trouble themselves to inquire liow the house of a 
poor poet l/« famished, or how his grave i» adorned. 



irnbed the heirt, I am not vain enough to hope 
for disQnguished poetic fame. 


SIR, Clifford Street, January 23, 1787. 
I HAVE just received your letter, by which I 
find I have reason to complain of my friend 
Mrs Dunlop for transmitting to you extracts 
from my letters to her, by much too freely and 
too carelessly written for your penissi. I 
must forgive her, however, in consideration of 
her good intention, as you will forgive me, I 
hope, for the freedom I use with certain ex- 
pressions, in consideration of my admiration 
of the poems in general. If I may judge of 
the author's disposition from his works, with 
all the other good qualities of a poet, he has 
not the irritable temper ascribed to that race 
of men by one of their o\m number, whom 
you have the happiness to resemble in ease 
and curious felicity of expression. Indeed the 
poetical beauties, however original and bril- 
liant, and lavishly scattered, are not all I ad- 
mire in your works ; the love of your native 
country, that feeling sensibility to all the ob- 
jects of humanity, and the independent spirit 
which breathes through the whole, give me a 
most favourable impression of the poet, and 
have made me often regret that I did not see 
the poems, the certain effect of which would 
have been my seeing the author last summer, 
when I was longer in Scotland than I have 
been for many years. 

I rejoice very sincerely at the encourage- 
ment you receive at £dinbun?b, and I think 
you peculiarly fortunate in the patronage of 
I)r Blair, who, I am informed, interests him- 
self very much for you. I beg to be remem- 
bered to him : nobody can have a warmer re- 
gard for that gentleman than I have, which, 
independent of the worth of bis character, 
would be kept alive by the memory of 
our common friend, the late Mr George 
B e. 

Before I received your letter, I sent in- 
closed in a letter to , a sonnet by 

Miss Williams, a young poetical lady, which 
she wrote on reading your Mountain-Daisy ; 
perhaps it may not displease you.* 

I have been trying to add to the number of 
your subscribers, but I find many of my ac- 
quaintance are already among them. I have 
only to add, that with every sentiment of es- 
teem, and most cordial good wishes, 
I am. 

Your obedient humble servant, 


♦ The soniiel is as follows : 

Whilk soon the garden's flaunting flowers decay, 
And scattered on the earth neglected lie. 

The " Mountain- Daisy," cherished by the ray 

A poet drew from heaven, shall never die. 
Ah, like that lonely flower the poet rose ! 

*Mid penury's bare soil and bitter gale ; 
He felt each storm that on the mountain blows, 

Nor ever knew the shelter of the vale. 
By genius in her native vigour nurst, 

l)n nature wiih impassion'd look he gazed; 
Then through the cloud of adverse fortune burrt 

indignant, and in light unborrow'd blazed. 
Scr tia [from rude aflliction shield thy bard. 

His heaven-taught numbers Fame herself will 


RETFECND SIR, Edinbttrgh, 15//« Feftruaryy 1787. 
Pardon my seeming neglect in delaying to 
long to acknowledge the honour you have done 
me, in your kind notice of me, January 23d. 
Not many months ago, I knew no other em- 
ployment than following the plough, nor could 
boast any thing higher than a distant ac- 
quaintance with a country clergyman. Mere 
greatness never embarrasses me : I have no- 
thing to ask from the great, and I do not fear 
their judgment ; but genius, polished by learn- 
ing, and at its proper point of elevation in the 
eye of the world, this of late I frequently meet 
with, and tremble at its approach. 1 scorn 
the afiectattoD of seeming modesty to cover 
self-conceit. That I 4iave some merit I do 
not deny ; but I see, with frequent wringings 
of heart, that the novelty of my character, and 
the honest national prejudice of my country- 
men, have borne me to a height altogether un- 
tenable to my abilities. 

For the honour Miss W. has done me, 
please. Sir, return her in my name, my most 
grateful thanks. I have more than once 
thought of paying her in kind, but have hither- 
to quitted the idea in hopeless despondency. 
I had never before heard of her ; but the other 
day I got her poems, which, for seyeral rea- 
sons, some belonging to the head, and others 
the oflTspring of the heart, give me a great deal 
of pleasure. I have little pretensions to critic 
lore : there are, I think, two characteristic 
features in her poetry — the unfettered wild 
flight of native genius, and the querulous, 
sombre tenderness of ** time-settled sorrow.** 

I only know what pleases me, often without 
being able to tell why. 

No. XIX. 

DEAR SIR, Cliford street, £8A February, Vm. 
Your letter of the 1 5th gave me a great deal 



So you have obtained liberty from the ma- 
gistrates to erect a stone over Fergusson's 
grave? I do not doubt it; such things have 
been, as Shakspeare says, ♦* in the olden-time-" 


The poet's fate, is here in emblem shown, 
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone. " 

It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb 
that this is written. But how many brothers 
of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor 
Fergusson, have asked for bread, and been 
served with the same sauce ! 

The magistrates gaire you Kberhf, did they ? 
O generous magistrates !*•**, celebrated 
over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, 
gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a 
poor poet's memory ! — most generous ! ♦ ♦ • 
once upon a time gave that same poet the 
mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of 
his works. But then it must be considered 
that the poet was at this time absolutely starv- 
ing, and besought his- aid with all the earnest- 
ness of hunger ; and, over and above, he re- 
ceived a worth, at least one-third of 

the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, 
the poet afterwards very ungratefully expunged. 

Next week I hope to have the pleasure of 
seeing you in Edinburgh ; and as my stay will 

be for eight or ten days, I wish you or 

would take a snug, well- aired bed-room for 
me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing 
you over a morning cup or tea. But by all 
accounts, it will be a matter of some difficulty 
to see you at all, unless your company is be- 
spoke a week before-hand. There is a great 
rumour here concerning your great intimacy 

with the Duchess of , and other ladies 

of distinction. I am really told that ** cards 
to invite fly by thousands each night ;** and, if 
you had one, I suppose there would also be 
•* bribes to your old secretary.** It seems you 
are resolved to make hay while the sun shines, 
and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fer- 
gusson, Quterenda pe- 

cunia primum csty virtus post mtmmost is a good 
maxim to thrive by : you seemed to despise it 
while in this country ; but probably some phi- 
losopher in Edinburgh has taught you better 

Pray, are you yet engraving as well as print- 
ing ? — Are you yet seized 

«• With itch of picture in the front, 
With ba)-s of wicked rhyme upont !" 

But I must give up this trifling, and attend 
to matters that more concern myself: so, as 
the Aberdeen wit says, adieu aryly^ we sal 
drink phan we meet. * 

* The above extract is from a letter of one of the 
abletit of our poet's correspondeots, which contains 
■cine Interesting anecdotes of Fergusson, that we shwald 
liaTe been happy to have inserted, if they could have 
been authenticated. The writer is mistaken in suppos- 

No. XXV. 

MADAM» Edinburyh, March 22, 1787. 
I BEAD vour letter with watery eyes. A little, 
very little while ago, / had scarce a ftiend bmi 
the stubborn pride of my own bosom j now I am 
distinguished, patronized, befriended by you. 
Your friendly advices, I will not give them the 
cold name of criticisms, I receive with reve- 
rence. I have made some small alterations in 
what I before had printed. I have the advice 
of some very judicious friends among the lite- 
rati here, but with them I sometimes find it 
necessary to claim the privilege of thinking for 
myself. The noble Earl of Glencairn, to 
whom I owe more than to any man, does me 
the honour of giving me his strictures: his 
hints with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, 
I follow implicitly. 

You kindly interest yourself in my future 
views and prospects ; there I can give you no 
light ; it is all 

** Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sim 
Was roll'd togetlier, or had tried his beams 
Athwart the gloom profound.*' 

The appellation of a Scottish bard is bjr far 
my highest pride ; to continue to deserve it is 
my most exalted ambition. Scottish scenes and 
Scottish story are the themes I could wish to 
sing. I have no dearer aim than to have it Id 
my power, unplagued with the routine of busi- 
ness, for which heaven knows I am unfit 
enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through 
Caledonia ; to sit on the fields of her battles ; 
to wander on the romantic banks of her rivers ; 
and to muse by the stately towers or venerable 
ruins, once the honoured abodes of her heroes. 

But these are all Utopian thoughts : I have 
dallied long enough with life : 'tis time to be 
in earnest. I have a fond, an aged mother to 
care fur ; and some other bosom ties perhaos 
equally tender. Where the individual omy 
suffers by the consequences of his own thought- 
lessness, indolence, or folly, be may be excus- 
able : na^, shining abilities, and some of the 
nobler virtues, may half-sanctify a heedless 
character : but where Grod and natiure have 
intrusted the welfare of others to his care; 
where the trust is sacred, and the ties are dear, 
that man must be far gone in selfishness, or 
strangely lost to reflection, whom these con- 
nexions will not rouse to exertion. 

I guess that I shall clear between two and 
three himdred pounds by my authorship ; with 
that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to 

ing the magistrates of Edinburgh liad any share in tha 
transaction respecting the monument erected for Fer- 
gusson by our bard ; this, it is evident, passed between 
Bums and the Kirlc Session of the Canongate. Neither 
at Edinburgh, nor anywhere else, do magbtrates usu- 
ally trouble tnemselves to inquire how the house of a 
poor poet is furnished, or how bis grave \§ adorned. 



irnbod the heart, I am not vain enough to hope 
for distinguished poetic fame. 


SIR, Clifford Street, January 23, 1787. 
I HAVE just received your letter, by which I 
find I have reason to complain of my friend 
Mrs Dunlop for transmitting to you extracts 
from my letters to her, by much too freely and 
too carelessly written for your perusal. I 
must forgive her, however, in consideration of 
her good intention, as you will forgive me, I 
hope, for the freedom I use with certain ex- 
pressions, in consideration of my admiration 
of the poems in general. If I may judge of 
the author's disposition from his works, with 
all the other good qualities of a poet, he has 
not the irritable temper ascribed to that race 
of men by one of their own number, whom 
you have the happiness to resemble in ease 
and curious felicitt/ of expression. Indeed the 
poetical beauties, however original and bril- 
liant, and lavishly scattered, are not all I ad- 
mire in your works ; the love of your native 
country, that feeling sensibilitv to all the ob- 
jects of humanity, and the independent spirit 
which breathes through the whole, give me a 
most favourable impression of the poet, and 
have made me often regret that J did not see 
the poems, the certain effect of which would 
have been my seeing the author last summer, 
when I was longer in Scotland than I have 
been for many years. 

I rejoice very sincerely at the encourage- 
ment you receive at Edinburgh, and I think 
you peculiarly fortunate in the patronage of 
Dr Blair, who, I am informed, interests him- 
self very much for you. I beg to be remem- 
bered to him : nobody can have a warmer re- 
card for that gentleman than J have, which, 
independent of the worth of his character, 
would be kept alive by the memory of 
our common friend, the late Mr George 
B e. 

Before I received your letter, I sent in- 
closed in a letter to , a sonnet by 

Miss Williams, a young poetical lady, which 
she wrote on readmg your Mountain-Daisy ; 
perhaps it may not displease you.* 

I have been trying to add to the number of 
your subscribers, but I find many of my ac- 
quaintance are already among them. I have 
only to add, that with every sentiment of es- 
teem, and most cordial good wishes, 
I am. 

Your obedient humble servant, 


♦ The soDiiel is «'is follows : 

Whilk soon tlie garden's flaunting flowers decay, 
And scattered on the earth neglected lie, 

The «* Mountain- Daisy," cherished r>y the ray 

A poet drew from heaven, shall never die. 
Ah, like that lonely flower the poet rose ! 

•Mid penury's bare soil and bitter gale ; 
He telt each storm that on the mountain blows, 

Nor ever knew the shelter of the vale. 
By genius in her native vigour nurst, 

l)n nature with impassion'd look he gazed ; 
Then through the cloud of adverse fortune burst 

Indignant, and in light unborrowed blazed. 
Sctiia ! from rude afllictlon shield thy bard. 

His heaven-taught numbers Fame herself will 


aEvraiND sir, Edinburgh, 16/A Fedruary, 1787. 

Pardon my seeming neglect in delaying so 
long to acknowledge the honour you have done 
me, in your kind notice of me, January 23d. 
Not many months ago, I knew no other em- 
pioyment than following the plough, nor could 
boast any thing higher than a distant ac- 
quaintance with a country clergyman. Mere 
greatness never embarrasses me : I have no- 
thing to ask from the great, and I do not fear 
their judgment ; but genius, polished by learn- 
ing, and at its proper point of elevation in the 
eye of the world, this of late I frequently meet 
with, and tremble at its approach. I scorn 
the affectation of seeming modesty to cover 
self-conceit. That I have some merit I do 
not deny ; but I see, with frequent wringings 
of heart, that the novelty of my character, and 
the honest national prejudice of my country- 
men, have borne me to a height altogether un- 
tenable to my abilities. 

For the honour Miss W. has done me, 
please, Sir, return her in my name, my most 
grateful thanks. I have more than once 
thought of paying her in kind, but have hither- 
to quitted the idea in hopeless despondency. 
I had never before heard of her ; but the other 
day I got her poems, which, for several rea- 
sons, some belonging to the head, and others 
the offspring of the heart, give me a great deal 
of pleasure. I have little pretensions to critic 
lore : there are, I think, two characteristic 
features in her poetry — the unfettered wild 
flight of native genius, and the querulous, 
sombre tenderness of *• time-settled sorrow.** 

I only know what pleases me, often without 
being able to tell why. 

No. XIX. 

DEAR SIR, Cliford street, £8A February, VniU 
Your letter of the 1 5th gave me a great deal 



So you have obtained liberty from the ma- 
gistrates to erect a stone over Fergusson's 
grave ? I do not doubt it ; such things have 
been, as Shakspeare says, "in the olden-time^" 

" The poet's fate, is hero in emblem shown. 
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone. *' 

It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb 
that this is written. But how many brothers 
of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor 
Fergusson, have asked for bread, and been 
served with the same sauce ! 

The magistrates gave you hberhf, did they ? 
O generous magistrates !*•**, celebrated 
over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, 
gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a 
poor poet's memoiy ! — most generous ! ♦ ♦ • 
once upon a time gave that same poet tlie 
mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of 
his works. But then it must be considered 
that; the poet was at this time absolutely starv- 
ing, and besought his- aid with all the earnest- 
ness of hunger ; and, over and above, he re- 
ceived a worth, at least one-third of 

the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, 
the poet afterwards very ungratefully expunged. 

Next week I hope to have the pleasure of 
seeing you in Edinburgh ; and as my stay will 

be for eight or ten days, I wish you or 

would take a snug, well- aired bed-room for 
me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing 
you over a morning cup of tea. But by all 
accounts, it will be a matter of some difficulty 
to see you at all, unless your company is be- 
spoke a week before-hand. There is a great 
rumour here concerning your great intimacy 

with the Duchess of , and other ladies 

of distinction. I am really told that " cards 
to invite fly by thousands each night ;'* and, if 
you had one, I suppose there would also be 
•* bribes to your old secretary.** It seems you 
are resolved to make hay while the sun shines, 
and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fer- 
gusson, Qtuerenda pe- 
tunia primum est, virtus post nummos, is a good 
maxim to thrive by : you seemed to despise it 
while in this country ; but probably some phi- 
losopher in Edinburgh has taught you better 

Pray, are you yet engraving as well as print- 
ing ? — Are you yet seized 

*• With itch of picture in the front. 
With baj-s of wicked rhyme upont l" 

But I must give up this trifling, and attend 
to matters that more concern myself: so, as 
the Aberdeen wit says, adieu dryly, we sal 
drink phan we meet. * 

* The above extract U from a letter of one of the 
ablest of our poet's correspondeDts, which containa 
■cine InteretitiDg anecdotes of FerguMon, that we shoald 
have been happy to have inserted, if they conid bare 
been anUionttcated. The writer is mistaken in sappos- 

No. XXV. 

MADAM, Edinburgh, March 22, 1787. 
I READ your letter with watery eyes. A little^ 
very little while ago, / had scarce a ft tend bwi 
the stubborn pride of my own bosom; now I am 
distinguished, patronized, befriended by you. 
Your friendly advices, I will not give them the 
cold name oi criticisms, I receive with reve- 
rence. I have made some small alterations in 
what I before had printed. I have the advice 
of some very judicious friends among the lite- 
rati here, but with them I sometimes find it 
necessary to claim the privilege of thinking for 
myself. The noble Earl of Glencairn, to 
whom I owe more than to any man, does roe 
the honour of giving me bis strictures: hit 
hints with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, 
I follow implicitly. 

You kindly interest yourself in my future 
views and prospects ; there I can give you no 
light ; it is all 

** Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun 
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams 
Athwart the gloom profound.*' 

The appellation of a Scottish bard ishy du 
my highest pride ; to continue to deserve it is 
my most exalted ambition. Scottish scenes and 
Scottish story are the themes I could wish to 
sing. I have no dearer aim than to have it Id 
my power, un plagued with the routine of busi- 
ness, for which heaven knows I am imfit 
enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through 
Caledonia ; to sit on the fields of her battles ; 
to wander on the romantic banks of her rivers ; 
and to muse by the stately towers or venerable 
ruins, once the honoured abodes of her heroes. 

But these are all Utopian thoughts : I have 
dallied long enough with life : *tis time to be 
in earnest. I have a fond, an aged mother to 
care fur ; and some other bosom ties perhaps 
equally tender. Where the individiud only 
suffers by the consequences of his own thought- 
lessness, indolence, or folly, be may be excus- 
able : na^, shining abilities, and some of the 
nobler virtues, may half-sanctify a heedless 
character : but where Grod and nature have 
intrusted the welfare of others to his care; 
where the trust is sacred, and the ties are dear, 
that man must be far gone in selfishness, or 
strangely lost to reflection, whom these con- 
nexions will not rouse to exertion. 

I guess that I shall clear between two and 
three hundred pounds by my authorship ; with 
that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to 

ing the magistrates of Edinburgh had any share in the 
transaction respecting the monument erected for Fer. 

Sisson by our bard ; this, it is evident, passed betwreen 
urns and the Kirk Sesshm of the Canongate. Neither 
at Edinburgh, nor anywhere else, do magistrates usu- 
ally trouble tnemselves to inquire how the house of a 
poor poet is furnished, or how Us grare \§ adorned. 



irnbod the hetrt, I am not vain enough to hope 
for distinguished poetic fame. 


SIR, Clifford Street, January 23, 1787. 
I HAVE just received your letter, by which I 
find I have reason to complain of my friend 
Mrs Dun lop for transmitting to you extracts 
from my letters to her, by much too freely and 
too carelessly written for your perusal. I 
must forgave her, however, in consideration of 
her good intention, as you will forgive me, I 
hope, for the freedom I use with certain ex- 
pressions, in consideration of my admiration 
of the poems in general. If I may judge of 
the author's disposition from his works, with 
all the other good qualities of a poet, he has 
not the irritable temper ascribed to that race 
of men by one of their own number, whom 
you have the happiness to resemble in ease 
and curiotts felicity of expression. Indeed the 
poetical beauties, however original and bril- 
liant, and lavishly scattered, are not all I ad- 
mire in your works ; the love of your native 
country, that feeling sensibility to all the ob- 
jects of humanity, and the independent spirit 
which breathes through the whole, give me a 
most favourable impression of the poet, and 
have made me often regret that I did not see 
the poems, the certain effect of which would 
have been my seeing the author last summer, 
when I was longer in Scotland than I have 
been for many years. 

I rejoice very sincerely at the encourage- 
ment you receive at Edinburgh, and I think 
you peculiarly fortunate in the patronage of 
Dr Blair, who, I am informed, interests him- 
self very much for you. I beg to be remem- 
bered to him : nobody can have a warmer re- 
gard for that gentleman than I have, which, 
independent of the worth of his character, 
would be kept alive by the memory of 
our common friend, the late Mr Geoi^e 
B e. 

Before I received your letter, I sent in- 
closed in a letter to , a sonnet by 

Miss Williams, a young poetical lady, which 
she wrote on readmg your Mountain-Daisy ; 
perhaps it may not displease you.* 

I have been trying to add to the number of 
your subscribers, but I find many of my ac- 
quaintance are already among them. I have 
only to add, that with every sentiment of es- 
teem, and most cordial good wishes, 
I am. 

Your obedient humble servant, 


♦ The sonnet is as follows : 

Whilk soon the garden's flaunting flowers decay, 
And scattered on the earth neglected lie, 

The ** Mountain- Daisy," cherished Dy the ray 

A poet drew from heaven, shall never die. 
Ah, like that lonely flower the poet rose! 

']Mid penury's bare soil and bitter gale ; 
He felt each storm that on the mountain blows, 

Nor ever knew the shelter of the vale. 
By genius in her native vigour nurst, 

l)n nature vrith impassion'd look he gazed ; 
Then through the cloud of adverse fortune burst 

Indignant, and in light unborrowed blazed. 
Sec tia ! from rude aflliction shield thy bard. 

His heaven-taught numbers Fame herself will 


REVEEKKD SIR, Editiburghy I5th Felrruaryy 1787. 
Pardon my seeming neglect in delaying so 
long to acknowledge the honour you have done 
me, in your kind notice of me, January 23d. 
Not many months ago, I knew no other em- 
ployment than following the plough, nor could 
boast any thing higher than a distant ac- 
quaintance with a country clergyman. Mere 
greatness never embarrasses me : I have no- 
thing to ask from the great, and I do not fear 
their judgment ; but genius, polished^ by learn- 
ing, and at its proper point of elevation in the 
eye of the world, this of late I frequentlv meet 
with, and tremble at its approach. I scorn 
the affectation of seeming modesty to cover 
self-conceit. That I Iiave some merit I do 
not deny ; but I see, with frequent wringings 
of heart, that the novelty of my character, and 
the honest national prejudice of my country- 
men, have borne me to a height altogether un- 
tenable to my abilities. 

For the honour Miss W. has done me, 
please, Sir, return her in my name, my most 
grateful thanks. I have more than once 
thought of paying her in kind, but have hither- 
to quitted the idea in hopeless despondency. 
I had never before heard of her ; but the other 
day I got her poems, which, for several rea- 
sons, some belonging to the head, and others 
the offspring of the heart, give me a great deal 
of pleasure. I have little pretensions to critic 
lore : there are, I think, two characteristic 
features in her poetry — the unfettered wild 
flight of native genius, and the querulous, 
sombre tenderness of *♦ time-settled sorrow.** 

I onl V know what pleases me, often without 
being able to tell why. 

No. XIX. 

DEAR SIR, Cliford street, £8A Febnutrjft 11VZ. 
Your letter of the 1 5th gave me a great deal 



of pleasure. It is not surprising that you im. 
prove in correctness and taste, considering 
where you have been for some time past. 
And I dare swear there is no danger of your 
admitting any polish which might weaken the 
vigour of your native powers. 

I am glad to perceive that you disdain the 
nauseous affectation of decrying jour own 
merit as a poet — an affectation which is dis< 
played with most ostentation by those who 
have the greatest share of self-conceit, and 
which only adds undeceiving falsehood to dis- 
gusting vanity. For you to deny the merit 
of your poems would be arraigning the fixed 
opinion of the public. 

As the new edition of my View of Society 
is not yet ready, I have sent you the former 
edition, which, I beg you will accept as a 
small mark of my esteem. It is sent by sea, 
to the care of Mr Creech ; and, along with 
these four volumes for yourself, I have also 
sent my Medical Sketches f in one volume, for 
my friend Mrs Dunlop of Dunlop : this you 
will be so obliging as to transmit, or if you 
chance to pass soon by Dunlop, to give to 

I am happy to hear that your subscription 
is so ample, and shall rejoice at every piece of 
good fortune that befalls you : for you are a 
very great favourite in my family ; and this is 
a higher compliment than perhaps you are 
aware of It includes almost all the profes- 
sions, and of course is a proof that your writ- 
ings ore adapted to various tastes and situa- 
tions. My youngest son who is at Winches- 
ter school, writes to me that he is translating 
some stanzas of your Hallowe'en into Latin 
verse, for the benefit of his comrades. This 
union of taste partly proceeds, no doubt, from 
the cement of Scottish partiality, with which 
they are all somewhat tinctured. Even pour 
translator, who left Scotland too early in life 
for recollection, is not without it. 

I remain, with greatest sincerity, 
Your obedient servant, 


No. XX. 


MY LORD, Edinburgh^ 1787. 

I WANTED to purchase a profile of your lord- 
ship, which I was told was to be got in town ; 
but I am truly sorry to see that a blunder- 
ing painter has spoiled a " human face di' 
vine." The enclosed stanzas I intended to 
have written below a picture or profile of your 
lordship, could I have been so happy as to pro- 
cure one with any thing of a likeness. 

As I will soon return to my shades, I want- 

ed to have something like a material object 
for my gratitude ; I wanted to have it in my 
power to say to a friend. There is my noble 
patron, :ray generous benefactor. Allow me, 
my lord, to publish these verses. I conjure 
vour lordship by the honest throe of gratitude, 
by the generous wish of benevolence, by all 
the powers and feelings which compose the 
niagnanlmous mind, do not deny me this peti- 
tion. « I owe to your lordship ; and what has 
not in some other instances always been the 
case with me, the weight of the obligation is 
a pleasing load. I trust, I have a heart as in. 
dependent as your lordship's, than which I can 
say nothing more : and I would not be behold- 
en to favours that would crucify my feelings. 
Your dignified character in life, and manner 
of supporting that character, are flattering to 
my pride ; and I would be jealous of the 
purity of my grateful attachment, where I was 
under the patronage of one of the much fa- 
voured sons of fortune. 

Almost every poet has celebrated his pa- 
trons, particularly when they were names dear 
to fame, and illustrious in their country ; allow 
me, then, my lord, if you think the verses have 
intrinsic merit, to tell the world how much I 
have the honour to be 

Your lordship's highly indebted, 

And ever grateful humble servant. 

No. XXL 


The honour your lordship has done me, by 
your notice and advice in yours of the 1st in- 
stant, I shall ever gratefully remember : 

•* Praise from thy lips His mine with joy to boast. 
They best can give it who deserve it most. * 

Your lordship touches the darling chord of 
my heart, when you advise me to fire my muse 
at Scottish stdry and Scottish scenes. 1 wish 
for nothing more than to make a leisurely pil- 
grimage through my native country ; to sit and 
muse on those once hard-contended fields, 
>yhere Caledonia, rejoicing, saw her bloody 
lion borne through broken ranks to victory 
and fame ; and, catching the inspiration, to 
pour the deathless names in song. But, my 
lord, in the midst of these enthusiastic reve- 
ries, a long-visaged, dry, moral-looking phan- 
tom strides across my imagination, and pro- 
nounces these emphatic words, " I, Wisdom, 
dwell with prudence." 

* It does not appear that the earl granted this re. 
quest, nor have the yersea alluded to been found 
among' tlie MSS. 



This, my lord, is unanswerable. I must 
return to my humble station, and woo my 
rustic muse in my wonted way at the plough- 
tail. Still, my lord, while the drops of life 
warm my heart, gratitude to that dear-loved 
country in which I boast my birth, and grati- 
tude to those her distinguished sons, who have 
honoured me so much with their patronage 
and approbation, shall, while stealing through 
my humble shades, ever distend my besom, 
and at times draw forth the swelling ieiir. 

ExL Property in favour of '^Ijx Robert Burns, 
to erect and keep up a Headstone in memory 
of Poet Fergusson, 1787. 

Session- house, vnthin the Kirk of Ca- 
nongaie, the twenty -second day of Fe- 
bruary, one thousand seven hundred 
and eighty -seven years. 

»Sederunt of the managers of ihe Kirk and Kirk- 
yard Fluids of Canongate. 

Which day, the treasurer to the said funds 
produced a letter from Mr Robert Burns, of 
date the sixth current, which was read, and 
appointed to be engrossed in their sederunt- 
book, and of which letter the tenor follows : 
" To the Honourable Bailies of Canongate, 
Edinburgh. Gentlemen, I am sony to be told 
that the remains of Robert Fergusson, the so 
justly celebrated poet, a man whose talents, for 
ages to come, will do honour to our Caledo- 
nian name, lie in your church-yard, among the 
ignoble dead, unnoticed and unknown. 

" Some memorial to direct the steps of the 
lovers of Scotish song, when they wish to shed 
a tear over the " narrow house" of the bard 
who is no more, is surely a tribute due to 
Fergussou's memory ; a tribute I wish to have 
the honour of paying. 

" I petition you, then. Gentlemen, to per- 
mit me to lay a simple stone over his revered 
ashes, to remain an unalienable property to his 
deathless fame. I have the honour to be. 
Gentlemen, your very humble servant, {sic 
suhscribUur), « ROBERT BURNS." 

Thereafter the said managers, in considera- 
tion of the laudable and disinterested motion 
of Mr Burns, and the propriety of his request, 
did, and hereby do, unanimously grant power 
and liberty to the eaid Robert Burns to erect 
a headstone at the grave of the said Robert 
Fergusson, and to keep up and preserve the 
game to his memory in all time coming. Ex 
tracted forth of the records of the managers, by 

William Sprott, Clerk. 



You may think, and too justly, that I am a 
selfish ungrateful fellow, having received so 
many repeated instances of kindness from you, 
and yet never putting pen to paper to say — 
thank you ; but if you knew what a devil of a 
life my conscience has led me on that account^ 
your good heart would think yourself too much 
avenged. By the bye, there 's nothing in the 
whole frame of man which seems to me so 
unaccountable as that thing called conscience. 
Had the troublesome yelping cur powers effi- 
cient to prevent a mischief, he might be of 
use : but at the beginning of the business, bis 
feeble efforts are to the workings of passion as 
the infant frosts of an autumnal morning to the 
unclouded fervour of the rising sun -. and . no 
sooner are the tumultuous doings of the wicked 
deed over, than, amidst the bitter native con- 
sequences of folly, in the very vortex of our 
horrors, up starts conscience, and harrows us 

with the feelings of the d . 

I have enclosed you, by way of expiation, 
some verse and prose, that, if they merit a 
place in your truly entertaining miscellany, 
you are welcome to. The prose extract is 
literally as Mr Sprott sent it me. 

The Inscription on ihe Stone is as follows : 



Born September bth, 11 bl— Died, \Gth OctoUr, 1774. 

No sculptured marble here, nor pompous lay 
" No storied urn nor animated bust;" 

This simple stone directs pale Scotia's Avay 
To pour her sorrows o'er her poet's dust. 

On the other side of the Stone is as follows : 

*' By special grant of the Manigers to Hobert 
Burns, who erected this stone, this burial-place 
is to remain for ever sacred to the memory of 
Robert Fergusson." 

No. XXIV. 


Sth March, 1787. 
I AM truly happy to know you have found a 

friend in ; his patronage of you docs 

him great honour. He is truly a good man ; 
by far the best I ever knew, or, perhaps, ever 
shall know, in this world. But I must not 
speak all I think of him, lest I should be 
thought partial. 



So you have obtained liberty from the ma. | 
gistrates to erect a stone over Fergusson's 
grave? I do not doubt it ; such things have 
been, as Shakspeare says, **in the olden-time^" 


The poet's fate, is here In emblem shown, 
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone. " 

It is, I believe, upon poor Butler's tomb 
that this is written. But how many brothers 
of Parnassus, as well as poor Butler and poor 
Fergusson, have asked for bread, and been 
served with the same sauce ! 

The magistrates gave you Uberhf, did they ? 
O generous magistrates !*•**, celebrated 
over the three kingdoms for his public spirit, 
gives a poor poet liberty to raise a tomb to a 
poor poet's memory ! — most generous ! ♦ ♦ • 
once upon a time gave that same poet the 
mighty sum of eighteen pence for a copy of 
his works. But then it must be considered 
that, the poet was at this time al>solutely starv- 
ing, and besought his aid with all the earnest- 
ness of hunger ; and, over and above, he re- 
ceived a worth, at least one-third of 

the value, in exchange, but which, I believe, 
the poet afterwards very ungratefully expunged. 

Next week I hope to have the pleasure of 
seeing you in Edinburgh ; and as my stay will 

be for eight or ten days» I wish you or 

would take a snug, well- aired bed- room for 
me, where I may have the pleasure of seeing 
you over a morning cup or tea. But by all 
accounts, it will be a matter of some diificulty 
to see you at all, unless your company is be- 
spoke a week before-hand. There is a great 
rumour here concerning your great intimacy 

with the Duchess of , and other ladies 

of distinction. I am really told that ** cards 
to invite fly by thousands each night ;** and, if 
you had one, I suppose there would also be 
•* bribes to your old secretary.** It seems you 
are resolved to make hay while the sun shines, 
and avoid, if possible, the fate of poor Fer- 
gusson, Quarenda pe- 
tunia primum est, virtus post nummos, is a good 
maxim to thrive by : you seemed to despise it 
while in this country ; but probably some phi- 
losopher in Edinburgh has taught you better 

Pray, are you yet engraving as well as print- 
ing? — Are you yet seized 

*' With itch of picture in the front, 
With ba)-s of wicked rhyme upon*t !" 

But I must give up this trifling, and attend 
to matters that more concern myself: so, as 
the Aberdeen wit says, adieu dryly, we sal 
drink phan we meet,* 

* The above extract U from a letter of one of the 
ablest of our poet's correspondents, which contains 
■ome Interesting anecdotes of^Fergusson, that we shoald 
have been happy to have inserted, if they could hare 
been authenticated. The writer is mistaken In sappos. 

No. XXV. 

MADAM, Edinburgh, March 22, 1787. 
I READ vouT letter with watery eyes. A little, 
very little while ago, / had scarce a ft iend bwi 
the stubborn pride of my own bosom ; now I am 
distinguished, patronized, befriended by you. 
Your friendly advices, I will not give them the 
cold name of criticisms, I receive with reve- 
rence. I have made some small alterations in 
what I before had printed. I have the advice 
of some very judicious friends among the lite- 
rati here, but with them I sometimes find it 
necessary to claim the privilege of thinking for 
myself. The nobie Earl of Glencairn, to 
whom I owe more than to any man, does me 
the honour of giving me his strictures: his 
hints with respect to impropriety or indelicacy, 
I follow implicitly. 

You kindly interest yourself in my future 
views and prospects ; there I can give you no 
light ; it is all 

** Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun 
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams 
Athwart the gloom profound." 

The appellation of a Scottish bard is b]r fur 
my highest pride ; to continue to deserve it is 
my most exalted ambition. Scottish scenes and 
Scottish story are the themes I could wish to 
sing. I have no dearer aim than to have it in 
my power, unplagued with the routine of busi- 
ness, for which heaven knows I am unfit 
enough, to make leisurely pilgrimages through 
Caledonia ; to sit on the fields of her battles ; 
to wander on the romantic banks of lier rivers ; 
and to muse by the stately towers or venerable 
ruins, once the honoured abodes of her heroes. 

But these are all Utopian thoughts : I have 
dallied long enough with life : *tis rime to be 
in earnest. I have a fond, an aged mother to 
care for ; and some other bosom ties perhape 
equally tender. Where the individual only 
suffers by the consequences of his own thought- 
lessness, indolence, or folly, he may be excus- 
able : iMi^, shining abilities, and some of the 
nobler virtues, may half-sanctify a heedless 
character : but where God and nature have 
intrusted the welfare of others to his care ; 
where the trust is sacred, and the ries are dear, 
that man must be far gone in selfishness, or 
strangely lost to reflecdon, whom these con- 
nexions will not rouse to exertion. 

I guess that I shall clear between two and 
three hundred pounds by my authorship ; with 
that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to 

ing the magistrates of Edinburgh had any share in tha 
transaction respecting the monument erected for Fer- 
gusson by our bard ; this, it is evident, passed between 
Bums and the Kirk Session of the Canongate. Neither 
at Edinburgh, nor anywhere else, do majglstrates usu- 
ally trouble tnemselves to inquire how the house of a 
poor poet i5 fonU^icd, <Mr liow Us grave i» adorned. 



have any intention, to return to ray old ac- 
quaintance, the plough, and, if I can meet with 
a lease by which I can live, to commence far. 
mer. I do not intend to give up poetry : being 
bred to labour secures me independence ; and 
the muses are my chief, sometimes have been 
my only, enjoyment. If my practice second 
my resolution, I shall have principally at heart 
the serious business of life : but while follow- 
ing my plough, or building up my shocks, I 
shall cast a leisure glance to that dear, that 
only feature of my character, which gave me 
the notice of my country and the patronage of 
a Wallace. 

Thus, honoured madam, I have given you 
the bai^, his situation, and his views, native as 
they are in his own bosom. 

No. XX VJ. 


MADAM, Edinburgh, I5th Aprils 1787. 
There is an affectation of gratitude which I 
dislike. The periods of Johnson and the 
pauses of Sterne may hide a selfish heart. For 
my part, madam, I trust I have too much pride 
for servility, and too little prudence for selfish- 
ness. I have this moment broke open your 
letter, but 

** Hudc am I in speech, 
And therefore little can I grace my cause 
In speaking for myself— *• 

so I shall not trouble you with any fine speeches 
and hunted figures. I shall just lay my hand 
on my heart, and say, I hope 1 shall ever have 
the truest, the warmest, sense of your good- 

I come abroad in print for certain on 
Wednesday. Your orders I shall punctually 
attend to ; only, by the way, I must tell you 
that J was paid before for Dr Moore's and 
Miss W.'s copies, through the medium of 
Ck>mmissioner Cochrane in this place ; but 
that we can settle when I have the honour of 
waiting on vou. 

Dr Smith* was just gone to London the 
morning before I received your letter to him. 



Edinburgh, 2Sd April, 1787. 
i RECEIVED the books, and sent the one you 
mentioned to Mrs Dunlop. I am ill- skilled 
in beating the coverts of imagination for meta> 

• Adam Smith. 

phors of gratitude. I thank you, sir, for the 
honour you have done me ; and to my latest 
hour will warmly remember it. To be highly 
pleased with your book, is what I have in 
common with the world ; but to regard these 
volumes as a mark of the author's friendly 
esteem, is a still more supreme gratification. 

I leave Edinburgh in the course of ten days 
or a fortnight ; and after a few pilgrimages 
over some of the classic ground of Caledonia, 
Cowden-Knowes, Banks of Yarrow, Tweedy ^r, 
I shall return to my rural shades, in all likeli. 
hood never more to quit them. I have formed 
many intimacies and friendships here, but I am 
afraid they are all of too tender a construction 
to bear carriage a hundred and fifty miles. To 
the rich, the great, the fashionable, the polite, 
I have no equivalent to offer ; and I am afraid 
my meteor appearance will by no means entitlb 
me to a settled correspondence with any of 
you, who are the permanent lights of genius 
and literature. 

My most respectful compliments to Mist 
W. If once this tangent tlighj; of mine were 
over, and I were returned to my wonted lei- 
surely motion in my old circle, I may probably 
endeavour to return her poetic compliment in 




Ediidmrgh 30th April, 1787. 

Your criticisms, madam, I understand 

very well, and could have wished to have 
pleased you better. You are right in your 
guess that I am not very amenable to counsel. 
Poets, much my superiors, have so flattered 
those who possessed the adventitious qualities 
of wealth and power, that I am determined to 
flatter no created being either in prose or verse. 

I set as little by , lords, clergy, cri- 
tics, &c. as all these respective gentry do by 
my hardship. I know what I may expect 
from the world by and by — illiberal abuse, and 
perhaps contemptuous neglect. 

I am happy, madam, that some of my own 
favourite pieces nro distinguished by your par- 
ticular approbation. For my Dream, which 
has unfortunately incurred your loyal displea- 
sure, I hope in four weeks, or less, to have the 
honour ot appearing at Dunlop in its defence^ 
in person. 



No. XXIX, 



Lawn- Market, Edinburgh, 3d May, 1787. 


I LEAVE Edinburgh to morrow moniing, but 
could not go without troubling you with half 
u line, sincerely to thank you for the kindness, 
patronage, and friendship you have shown me. 
I often felt the embarrassment of my singular 
situation ; drawn forth from the veriest shades 
of life to the glare of remark ; and honoured 
by the notice of those illustrious names of my 
country, whose works, while they are applauded 
to the end of time, will ever instruct and mend 
the heart. However the meteor-like novelty 
of my appearance in the world might attract 
notice, and honour me with the acquaintance 
of the permanent lights of genius and litera- 
ture, those who are truly benefactors of the 
immortal nature of man ; I knew very well, 
that ray utmost merit was far unequal to the 
task of preserving that character when once 
the novelty was over. I have made up my 
mind, that abuse, or almost even neglect, will 
not surprise me in my quarters. 

I have sent you a proof impression of Beu- 
go's work for rue, done on Indian paper, as a 
trifling but sincere testimony with what heart- 
warm gratitude I am, &c. 

No. XXX. 
Argyle- Square, Edinburgh, 4M Mat/, 1787. 


I WAS favoured this forenoon with your very 
obliging letter, together with an impression of 
your portrait, for which I return you my best 
thanks. The success you have met with I do 
not think was l>eyond your merits •, and if I 
have had any small hand in contributing to it, 
it gives me great pleasure. I know no way in 
which literary persons, who are advanced in 
years, can do more service to the world, than 
m forwarding the efforts of rising genius, or 
bringing forth unknown merit from obscurity. 
I was the first person who brought oiit to the 
notice of the world, the poems of Ossian : 
first by the Fragments of Ancient Poetrg which 
I published, and afterwards, by my setting on 
foot the undertaking for collecting and pub- 
lishing the Works of Ossian; and I have 
alwajs considered this as a meritorious action 
of my life. 

Your situation, as you say, was indeed very 
singular ; and, in being brought out all at once 
from the shades of deepest privacy, to so great 
a share of public notice and observation, you | 

had to stand a severe triaL I am happy that 
vou have stood it so well ; and as far as I have 
known or heard, though in the midst of many 
temptations, without reproach to your charac- 
ter and behaviour. 

You are now, I presume, to retire to a more 
private walk of lifp ; Rnd I trust, will conduct 
yourself there with industry, prudence, and 
honour. You have laid ihe foundation ibt 
just public esteem. In the midst of those em- 
ployments, which your situation will render 
proper, you will not, J hope, neglect to pro- 
mote that esteem, by cultivating your genius, 
and attending to such productions of it as may 
raise your character still higher. At the same 
time, be not in too great a haste to come for- 
ward. Take time and leisure to improve and 
mature your talents ; for on any second pro- 
duction you give the world, your fate, as a 
poet, will very much depend. There is, no 
doubt, a gloss of novelty which time wears off. 
As you very properly hint yourself, you are 
not to be surprised if, in your niral retreat, vou 
do not find yourself surrounded with that glare 
of notice and applause which here shone upon 
you. No man can be a good poet without 
being somewhat of a philosopher. He must 
lay Sis account, that any one, who exposes 
himself to public observation, will occasionally 
meet with the attacks of illiberal censure, 
which it is always best to overlook and despise. 
He will be inclined soiitetimcs to court retreat, 
and to disappear from public view. He will 
not affect to shine always, that he may at pro- 
per seasons come forth with more advantage 
and energy. He will not think himself ne- 
glected if he be not always praised. I have 
taken the liberty, you s^e, of an old man, to 
give advice and make reflections which your 
own good sense will, I dare say, render unne- 

As you mention your being just about to 
leave town, you are going, I should suppose, 
to Dumfriesshire, to look at some of Mr 
Miller's farms. 1 heartily wish the offers to 
be made you there may answer ; as I am per- 
suaded you will not easily find a more gener- 
ous and better hearted proprietor to live under 
than Mr Miller. When you return, if you 
come this way, I will be happy to see you, and 
to know concerning your future plans of life. 
You will find me, by the 23d of this month, 
not in my house in Argyle Square, but at a 
country-house at Restalrig, about a mile east 
from Edinburgh, near the Musselburgh road. 
Wishing you all success and prosperity, I am, 
with real regard and esteem. 
Dear Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 




No. xxxr. 


DEAR BIB, Clifford Street, May 23, 1787. 
I HAD the pleasure of your letter by Mr Creech, 
and soon after he sent me the new edition of 
your poems. You seem to think it incumbent 
on you to send to each subscriber a number of 
copies proportionate to his subscription mo- 
ney ; but you may depend upon it, few sub- 
scribers expect more than one copy, whatever 
they subscribed. I must inform you, however, 
that I took twelve copies for those subscribers 
for whose money you were so accurate as to 
send me a receipt; and Lord Eglinton told 
me he had sent for six copies for himself, as 
he wished to give five of them in presents. 

Some of the poems you have added in this 
liist edition are beautiful, particularly the Win- 
ter Night, the Address to Edinburgh, Green 
grow the Rashes, and the two songs immedi- 
ately following ; the latter of which was ex- 
quisite. By the way, I imagine you have a 
peculiar talent for such compositions, which 
you ought to indulge.* No kind of poetry 
demands more delicacy or higher polishing. 
Horace is more admired on account of his 
Odes than all his other writings. But nothing 
now added is equal to your Viaion and O/tiar's 
Saturdai/ Night. In these are united tine 
imagery, natural and pathetic description, with 
sublimity of language and thought. It is evi- 
dent that you already possess a great variety of 
expression and command of the English lan- 
guage; you ought, therefore, to deal more 
sparingly for the future in the provincial dia- 
lect : — why should you, by using Ma/, limit the 
number of your admirers to those who under- 
stand the Scottish, when you can extend it to 
all persons of taste who understand the English 
language? In my opinion, you should plan 
some larger work than any you have as yet 
attempted. I mean, redect upon some proper 
subject, and arrange the plan in your mind, 
without beginning to execute any part of it till 
you have studied most of the best English 
poets, and read a little more of history. The 
Greek and Roman stories you can read in some 
abridgment, and soon become master of the 
most briUiant facts, which must highly delight 
a poetical mind. You should also, and very 
soon may, become master of the heathen my- 
thology, to w hich there are everlasting allusions 
in all the poets, and which in itself is charm- 
ingly fanciful. What will require to be stu- 
died with more attention, is modem history ; 
that is, the history of France and Great Bri- 
tain, from the l)eginning of Henry the Seventh's 
leign. I know very well you have a mind 
capable of attaining knowledge by a shorter 
process than is commonly used, and I am cer- 

* His subsequent compositions will bear testimony 
lu llie accurncy ot Dr Muort^'s judgment. 

tain you are capable of making a better use of 
it, when attained, than is generally done. 

I beg you will not give yourself the trouble 
of writing to me when it is inconvenient, and 
make no apology, when you do write, for hav- 
ing postponed it ; be assured of this, however, 
that 1 shall always be happy to hear from you. 

I think my friend Mr told me that you 

had some poems in manuscript by you of a 
satirical and humorous nature (in which, by 
the way, I think you very strong,) which your 
prudent friends prevailed on you to omit, par- 
ticularly one called Somebody's Confession; if 
you will intrust me with a sight of any of 
these, I will pawn my word to give no copies, 
and will be obliged to you for a perusal of 

I understand you intend to take a farm, and 
make the useful and respectable business of 
husbandry your chief occupation ; this, I hope, 
will not prevent your making occasional ad- 
dresses to the nine ladies who have shown you 
such fa\our, one of whom visited you in the 
auld clay biggin. Virgil, before you, proved 
to the world that there is nothing in the busi- 
ness of husbandry inimical to poetry ; and I 
sincerely hope that you may afford an example 
of a good poet being a successful farmer. I 
fear it will not be in my power to visit Scot- 
land this season ; w hen I do, I'll endeavour to 
find you out, for I heartily wish to see and 
converse with you. If ever your occasions 
call you to this place, I make no doubt of your 
paying me a visit, and you mav depend on a 
verv cordial welcome from this tamily. 
I am, dear Sir, 
Your friend and obedient Servant, 




SIB, Jamaica, St Ann's, lUh Jane, 1787. 
I RECEIVED yours, dated Edinburgh, 2d Janu- 
ary, 1787, wherein you acquaint me you were 
engaged with Mr Douglas of Port Antonio, 
for three years, at thirty pounds sterling a-year ; 
and am happy some unexpected accidents in- 
tervened that prevented your sailing with the 
vessel, as I have great reason to think Mr 
Douglas's employ would by no means have 
answered your expectations. I received a copy 
of your publications, for which I return you 
my thanks, and it is my own opinion, as well 
as that of such of my friends as have seen 
them, they are most excellent in their kind ; 
although some could have wished they had 
been in the English style, as they allege the 
Scottish dialect is now becoming obsolete, and 
thereby the elegance and beauties of yoiu 
poems are in a great measure lost to far the 
greater part of the community. Nevertheless 
there is no doubt you had sulhcient reasons lor 




jour conduct— perhaps the wishes of some of 
the Scottish nobility and gentry, your patrons, 
who will always relish their own old country 
style *, and your own inclinations for the same. 
It is evident from several passages in your 
works, you are as capable of writing in the 
English as in the Scottish dialect, and I am 
in great hopes your genius for poetry, from the 
specimen you have already given, will turn out 
both for profit and honour to yourself and 
country. I can by no means advise you now 
to think of coming to the West Indies, as, I 
assure you, there is no encouragement for a 
man of learning and genius here ; and am very 
confident you can do far better in Great Bri- 
tain, than in Jamaica. I am glad to bear my 
friends are well, and shall always be happy to 
hear from you at all convenient opportunities, 
wishing you success in all your undertakings. 
I will esteem it a particular favour if you will 
send me a copy of the other edition you are 
now printing. 

I am, with respect, 
Dear Sir, yours, &c. 


that polite, agreeable company, raises an honest 
glow in my bosom. 



Jnuerness, bth September, 1787. 


I HAVE just time to write the foregoing,* and 
to tell you that it was (at least most part of it,) 
the effusion of an half hour I spent at Bruar. 
I do not mean it was extempore, for I have 
endeavoured to brush it up as well as Mr 

N 's chat, and the jogging of the chaise, 

would allow. It eases my heart a good deal, 
as rhyme is the coin with which a poet pays 
his debts of honour or gratitude. What I owe 
to the noble family of Athole, of the first kind, 
I shall ever proudly boast ; what I owe of the 
last, so help me God in my hour of need, I 
shall never forget. 

The little " angel band !" — I declare I pray- 
ed for them very sincerely to-day at the Fall 
of Fyars. I shall never forget the fine familv- 
piece I saw at Blair; the amiable, the truly 
noble Duchess, with her smiling little seraph 
in her lap, at the head of the table ; the lovely 
" olive plants,'* as the Hebrew bard finely says, 
round the happy mother; the beautiful Mrs 

G ; the lovely, sweet Miss C. &c. I 

wish I bad the powers of Guido to do them 
justice ! My Lord Duke*s kind hospitality, 

markedly kind, indeed— Mr G. of F 's 

charms of conversation — Sir W. M *8 

friendship in short, the recollection of all 

* **The hnmbto Petition of Broar. Water to the 

Dulit? of AtlM.le." 

Edinburgh, Mth September, 1787. 


I ARRIVED here safe yesterday evening, after a 
tour of twenty-two days, and travelling near 
six hundred miles, windings included. My 
farthest stretch was about ten miles bejond 
Inverness. I went through the heart of the 
Highlands, by Crieff, Taymouth, the famous 
seat of Lord Breadalbane, down the Tay, 
among cascades and druidical circles of stones 
to Dunkeld, a seat of the Duke of Athole; 
thence cross Tay, and up one of his tributary 
streams to Blair of Athole, another of the 
Duke*s seats, where I had the honour of spend* 
ing nearly two days with his Grace and fa- 
mily ; thence man^ miles through a wild 
country, among difis grey with eternal snows, 
and gloomy savage glens, till I crossed Spey 
and went down the stream through Strathspey, 
so famous in Scottish music, Badenoch, &c. 
till I reached Grant Castle, where I spent half 
a day with Sir James Grant and family ; and 
then crossed the country for Fort George, but 
called by the way at Cawdor, the ancient seat 
of Macbeth ; there I saw the identical bed in 
which, tradition says. King Duncan was mur- 
dered : lastly, from Fort George to Inverness. 
I returned by the coast, through Naini, 
Forres, and so on, to Aberdeen ; thence to 
Stonehive, where James Bumes, from Mon- 
trose, met me by appointment I spent two 
days amoiig our relations, and found our aunta^ 
Jean and Isabel, still alive, and hale old wo- 
men. John Caird, though born the same year 
with our father, v\ alks as vigorously as I can ; 
they have had several letters from his son in 
New York. William Brand is likewise a 
stout old fellow : but further particulars I de- 
lay till I see you, which will be in two or three 
weeks. The rest of my sti^s are not worth 
rehearsing : warm as I was from Ossian'a 
country, where I had seen his very grave, what 
cared I for fishing towns or fertile carses ? I 
slept at the famous Brodie of Brodie*s one 
night, and dined at Gordon Castle next day 
with the Duke, Duchess, and family. I am 
thinking to cause my old mare to meet me, by 
means of John Ronald, at Glasgow ; but you 
shall hear farther from me before I leave 
Edinburgh. My duty, and many compliments 
from the north, to my mother, and my brotherly 
compliments to the rest I have been trying 
for a birth for William, but am not likely to 
be successful. — Farewell 



No. XXXV. 

SIR, Ochtertyre, 22d October, 1787. 

*TwA8 only yesterday 1 got Colonel Edmon> 
stoune's answer, that neither the words of 
Down the burn Dacie^ nor Dainty Davie (I 
foiTfot which you mentioned), were written by 
Colonel G. Crawford. Next time I meet 
bim, I will inquire about bis cousin's poetical 

Enclosed are the inscriptions you requested, 
and a letter to Mr Young, whose company and 
musical talents will, I am persuaded, be a feast 
to you. • Nobody can give you better bints, 

* These Inscriptions, so mach admired by Burns, are 
below : — 

WRITTEN' IN 176«. 


Salubritatis voluptatisqne causa. 

Hoc Salictum, 

Palu'ii'in otini iitttdam, 

Mihi mHtsqiie desicco ft oxorno. 

Hie, procul npgotiis strepttuquo 

Iiinocuis deliciis 

Silvulas inter nasoentes rpptandi, 

Apiumque labores suspiciendi, 


Hie, 81 faxit Deus i»pt. max. 

Prope hiinc fontetn peilncidum. 

Cum quadam juventutis aroico superstite, 

Saepe CJiitquiescHm, Sf uex, 

Contentus m<idifis, meoque Isetiu ! 

Sin nliter— 

JSviqne paulnlum supersit, 

Vo4 silvulae, et amici, 

Cieteraque amoeria, 

Valete, diuque isetamini ! 


To improve hoth air and soil, 

I drain and decorate this plantation of Wilton's, 

Which was lately an unprofitable morass. 

Here, far from noise and strife, 

I love to wander, 

Hnw fondly roarkina;' the protfress of my trees. 

Now studyiiiif tht* bee, its arts and manners. 

Here, if it plea.Hes Almighty God, 

May I often rest in the evrntng of life, 

Near that transparent fnuntain. 

With some surviving friend of my youth j 

Contented with a competency. 

And happy with ray lot. 

If vain these humble wishes. 

And life draws near a doee. 

Ye trees and friends. 

And whatever else is dear. 

Farewell, and long may ye flourbh. 


MiHi meisaue uUnara contingat, 
Frope faichi margtnem, 
Avito in agelio. 
Bene vlvoro f.tu&teque mori I 

t S«lictum_Gro»e of Willow., WlIIow^{Toond. 

as to your present plan, than he. Receive 
also Omeron Cameron, which seemed to make 
such a deep impression on your imagination, 
that I am not without hopes it will beget some- 
thing to delight the public in due time : and, 
no doubt, the circumstances of this little tale 
might be varied or extended, so as to make 
part of a pastoral comedy. Age or wounds 
might have kept Omeron at home, whilst his 
countrymen were in the field. His station 
may be somewhat varied, without losing his 
simplicity and kindness • • • •. A group 
of characters, male and female, conncjcted with 
the plot, might be formed from his family, or 
some neighbouring one of rank. It is not in- 
dispensable that the guest should be a man of 
high station ; nor is the political quarrel in 
which he is engaged, of much importance, un 
less to call forth the exercise of generosity and 
faithfulness, grafted on patriarchal hospitality. 
To introduce state affairs, would raise the 
style above comedy ; though a small spice of 
them would season the converse of swains. 
Upon this head I cannot say more than to re- 
commend the study of the character of Eumseus 
in the Odyssey, which, in Mr Pope's transla- 
tion, is an exquisite and invaluable drawing 
from nature, that would suit some of our coun- 
try elders of the present day. 

There must be love in the plot, and a happy 
discovery ; and peace and pardon may be the 
reward of hospitality, and honest attachment 
to misguided principles. When you have once 
thought of a plot, and brought the story into 
form, Dr Blacklock, or Mr H. Mackenzie, 
may be useful in dividing it into acts and 
scenes ; for in these matters one must pay 
some attention to certain rules of the drama. 
These you could afterwards fill up at your lei- 
sure. But, whilst I presume to give a few 
well-meant hints, let me advise you to study 
the spirit of my namesake's dialogue, • which 
is natural without being low, and, under the 
trammels of verse, is such as country people in 
their situations speak every day. You have 
only to bring down your outi strain a very lit- 
tle. A great plan, such as this, would con- 
center all your ideas, which facilitates the exe- 
cution, and makes it a part of one's pleasure. 

I approve of your plan of retiring from din 
and dissipation to a farm of very moderate size, 


On the banks of the Teith, 

lo the small but sweet inheritance 

Of ray fathers. 

May I and mine live in peace. 

And die in joyful hope I 

These inscriptions, and the translations, are in tho 
hand.writing of Mr R-^. 

This gentleman, if still alive, will, it is hoped, excn e 
the liberty taken by the unknown editor, in enrichiiitr 
the correspondence of Bums with his excellent lettci, 
and with inscriptions so classical and so interesting. 
« Allan Ramsay, in the Gentle Shepherd. 




sufficient to find exercise for mind and body, 
but not so great as to absorb better things. 
And if some intellectual pursuit be well chosen 
and steadily pursued, it will be more lucrative 
than most farms, in- this age of rapid improve- 

Upon this subject, as your well-wisher and 
admirer, permit me to go a step farther. Let 
those bright talents which the Almighty has 
bestowed on you, be henceforth employed to 
the noble purpose of supporting the cause of 
truth and virtue. An imagination so varied 
and forcible as yours, may do this in many dif- 
ferent modes ; nor is it necessary to be always 
serious, which you have been to good purpose ; 
good morals may be recommended in a comedy, 
or even in a song. Great allowances are due 
to the heat and inexperience of youth ; — and 
few poets can boast, like Thomson, of never 
having written a line, which, dying, they would 
wish to blot. In particular, I wish you to 
keep clear of the thorny walks of satire, which 
makes a man a hundred enemies for one friend, 
and is doubly dangerous when one is supposed 
to extend the slips and weaknesses of indivi- 
duals to their sect or party. About modes of 
faith, serious and excellent men have always 
differed ; and there are certain curious ques- 
tions, which may afford scope to men of meta- 
physical heads, but seldom mend the heart or 
temper. Whilst these points are beyond hu- 
man ken, it is sufficient that all our sects con. 
cur in their views of morals. You will forgive 
me for these hints. 

Well ! what think you of good Lady C. ? 
It is a pity she is so deaf, and speaks so indis- 
tinctly. Her house is a specimen of the man- 
sions of our gentry of the last age, when hos- 
pitality and elevation of mind were conspicu- 
ous amidst plain fare and plain furniture. I 
shall be glad to hear from you at times, if it 
were no more than to show that you take the 
effusions of an obscure man like me in good 
part I beg my best respects to Dr and Mrs 

And am. Sir, 

Your most obedient humble servant 


No. xxxvr. 



In one of the wars betwixt the Crown of Scotland 
nnd the Lords of the Isles, Alexander Stewart, Earl of 
Mar (a distingubhed character in the fifteenth century), 
and Donald Stewart, Earl of Caithness, had the com. 
niand of the royal amiy. lliey marched into Lochaber, 
with a view of attacking a iMKiy of M*I>onalds, com- 
manded by Donald Balloch, and posted upon an arm of 
the sea which intersects that country. Having timeiy 
Intelliirence of their approach, the insurgents got off 
precipitately t*) the opposite shore in their curagns, or 
boats covered with sl<in?. The king's troops encamped 
in full security; but the M'Donalds, returning about 
midnifi^ht, surprised them, killed the Earl of Caiithness, 
and destroyed or disper-^ed the whole army. 

The E:iri of Mar escaped in the dark, without any 
attendants, and made for the mure hilly part of the 
country. In thf course of his flight he came to the 
house of a poor man, whose n&me was Omeron Came- 
ron. The landlord welcomed his guest with the utmost 
kindness j but, as there was no meat in the house, he 

Athole House, 13M September ^ 1787. 
Your letter of the 5th reached roe only on the 
lltb; what awkward route it had taken 1 
know not ; but it deprived me of the pleasure 
of writing to you in the manner you proposed, 
as you must have left Dundee before a letter 
could possibly have ^ot there. J hope your 
disappointment on being forced to leave us was 
as great as appeared from your expressions. 
This is the best consolation for the greatness 
of ours. I still think with vexation on that 
ill-timed indisposition which lost me a day's 
enjoyment of a man ( I speak without flattery) 
possessed of those very dispositions and talents 

I most admire ; one 

You know how anxious the Duke 

was to have another day of vou, and to let Mr 
Dundas have the pleastu« oi your conversation 
as the best dainty with which be could enter- 

told his wife he would directly kill Moot Odhar^^ to 
feed the stranger. **Kill onr only cow!** said ahe, 
** our own and oar little children^ prindpal support!** 
More attentive, however, to the present call for nospU 
tality, than to the remonstrances of his wife, or the 
future exigencies of his fiamily, he killed the cow. The 
best and tenderest parts were immediately roasted be. 
fore the fire, and plenty of inniri^ or highland sonp. 
prepared to conclude their meal. — The whoie family and 
their guest ate heartily, and tlie evening was spent as 
usual, in telling tales and singing songs beside a cheer- 
ful fire. Bed-time came ; Omeron brushed the hearth, 
spread the cow hide upon it, and desired the stranger 
to lie down. The Earl wrapped bis plaid about him, 
and slept sound on the hide, whilst the family betook 
themselves to rest in a comer of the same room. 

Next morning they had a plentiful breakte>t, and at 
his departure nis guest asked Cameron, if he knew 
whom lie had entertained ? ** You may probably,** an. 
swered he, *' be one of the king*s officers; but whoever 
you are, you came here in distress, and here it was my 
duty to protect yon. To what my cottage afforded, you 
are most welcome.*'—** Your guest, tlien,*' replied the 
other, ** is the Earl of Mar : and if hereafter you fall 
into any mbfortunet fWl not to come to the castle of 
Kildrummie.**— '* My bleasingbe with yon ! noble stran. 
ger,** said Omeron ; **if I am ever in diatrefls, you shall 
soon see me.*' 

The royal army was soon after re-assembled ; and the 
insurgents, flnditig themselves unable to make head 
against it, dispersed. The M'Donalds, however, got 
notice that Omeron had been the Earrs host, and forced 
him to fly the country. He came with his wife and 
children to the gate of Kildrnmmie Castle, and required 
admittance with a confidence which hardly corresponded 
with his habit and appearance. The porter told him, 
rudely, his Lordship whs at dinner, and must not be 
disturbed. He became noisy and importunate : at last 
his name was announced. Upon hearing that it was 
Omeron Cameron, the Earl started from his seat, and is 
said to have exclaimed in a sort of poetical stanxa, ** I 
was a night In his house, and fared roost plentifully ; 
but nakM of clothes was my bed. Omeron from Breu. 
gach is an excellent fellow !'* He was introduced into 
the great hall, and received with the welcome he de. 
served. Upon hearing how he had been treated, the 
Earl gave him a four merk land near the castle : and it 
is said there are still in the country a number of Cain«> 
rons descended of this Highland Eumseus. 

« ICool Odbar, f . «. Um brown hambi* c«w. 



tain an honoured guest. You know likewise 
(he eagerness the ladies showed to detain you; 
but perhaps you do not know the scheme 
which they devised, with their usual fertility 
in resourcesj. One of the servants was sent to 
your driver to bribe him to loosen or pull off a 
shoe from one of his horses, but the ambush 
failed. Proh minim ! The driver was incor- 
ruptible. Your verses have given us much 
delight, and I think will produce their proper 
effect.* They produced a powerful one im- 
mediately ; for the morning after I read tliem, 
we all set out in procession to the Bruar, where 
none of the ladies had been these seven or 
eight years, and again enjoyed them there. 
The passages we most admired are the descrip • 
tion of the dying (routs* Of the high fall 
*' twisting strength," is a happy picture of the 
upper part. The characters of the birds, 
" mild and mellow," is the thrush itself. The 
benevolent anxiety for their happiness and 
safety I highly approve. The two stanzas 
beginning *• Here haply too " — darkly dashing f 
is most descriptively Ossianic. 

Here I cannot deny myself the pleasure of 
mentioning an incident which happened yester- 
day at the Bruar. As we passed the door of 
a most miserable hovel, an old woman curtsied 
to us with looks of such poverty, and such 
contentment, that each of us involuntarily gave 
her some money. She was astonished, and in 
the confusion of her gratitude, invited us in. 
Miss C. and I, that we might not hurt her 
delicacy, entered — but, good God, what wretch- 
edness ! It was a cow-house — her own cottage 
had been burnt last winter. The poor old 
creature stood perfectly silent — looked at Miss 
C, then to the money, and burst into tears — 
Miss G. joined her, and, with a vehemence of 
sensibility, took out her purse, and emptied it 
into the old woman's lap. What a charming 
scene!— A sweet accomplished girl of seven- 
teen in 80 angelic a situation ! Take your 
pencil and paint her in your most glovnng 
tints. — Hold her up amidst the darkness of 
this scene of human woe, to the icy dames 
that flaunt through the gaieties of life, without 
ever feeling one generous, one great emotion. 

Two days after you left us, I went to Tay- 
moutb. It is a charming place, but still I 
think art has been too busy. Let me be your 
Cicerone for two days at Dunkeld, and vou 
will acknowledge that in the beauties of naked 
nature we are not surpassed. The loch, the 
Gothic arcade, and the fall of the hermitage, 
gave me most delight. But I think the last 
has not been taken proper advantage of. The 
hermitage is too much in the common- place 
style. Every body expects the couch, the 
book- press, and the hairy gown. The Duke's 

idea I think better. A rich and elegant apart- 
ment is an excellent contrast to a scene of 
Alpine horrors. 

I must now beg your permission (unless you 
have some other design) to have your verses 
printed. They appear to me extremely cor- 
rect, and some particular stanzas would give 
universal pleasure. Let me know, however, 
if you incline to give them any farther touches. 

Were they in some of the public papers, we 
could more easily disseminate them among our 
friends, which many of us are anxious to do. 

When you pay your promised visit to the 
Braes of Ochtertyre, Mr and Mrs Graham of 
Balgowan beg to have the pleasure of conduc- 
ting you to the bower of Bessy Bell and Mar^ 
Grayj which is now in their possession. The 
Duchess would give any consideration for 
another sight of your letter to Dr Moore ; we 
must fall upon some method of procuring it for 
her. I shall inclose this to our mutual friend 

Dr B , who may forward it. I shall be 

extremely happy to bear from you at your first 
leisure. Inclose your letter in a cover ad- 
dressed to the Duke of A thole, Dunkeld. 

God bless you, 

J W . 




» *• Thf huinbJe Petition of Rriinr- Water to the 
Duke of Athole." 

SIR, Glh October y 1787. 

Having just arrived from abroad, I had your 
poems put into my hands : the pleasure I re- 
ceived in reading them, has induced me to 
solicit your liberty to publish them amongst 
a number of our countrymen in America, (to 
which place I shall shortly return), and where 
they will be a treat of such excellence, that it 
would be an injury to your merit and their 
feeling to prevent their appearing in public 

Receive the following hastily- written lines 
from a well-wisher. 

Fair fu* your pen, my dainty Rob, 

Your leisom way o' writing, 
Whiles, glowring o'er your warks 1 sob, 

Whiles Inugh, whiles downright greeting : 
Your sonsie tykes may charm a chiel, 

Their words are wondrous bonny, 
But guid Scotch drink the trutli does say. 

It is as guid as ony 

Wi' ycu this day. 

Poor Mailie, troth, I'll nae but think, 

YeKiid the poor thing wrang, 
To leave her tether'd on the brink 

Of stank sae wide and lang ; 
Her dying words upbraid ye sair, 

Cry fye on your neglect ; 
Guid faith ! gin ye had got play fair. 

This deed had strctch'd your nock 

Thai niournfu' day. 


But, Avae's nie, how dare I fin' faut, 

Wi' sic a winsome bardie, 
Wha great an' sma's begun to daufj 

And tali' iiim bv the gardie; 
It sets na ony law land chiel, 

Like you to verse or rhyme, 
For few like you can fley the de'il, 

And sKelp auld witlier'd Time 

On onv da v. 

It's fair to praise ilk canty calian, 

Be he of purest fame, 
If he but tries to rair^e as Allan, 

Auld Scotia's bonny name ; 
To you, therefore, in humble rhyme, 

Better 1 canna gi'e, 
And tho' it's but a swatch of thine, 
Accept these lines frae me, 

Upo' this day, 

Krae Jock o' Groats to bonny Tweed, 

Frae that p'en to the line, 
in ilka place where Scotsmen bleed. 

There shall your bardship shine ; 
Ilk honest chiel wha reads your buick, 

"Will there aye meet a brither, 
He lang may seek and lang will look. 

Ere he *^n' sic anither 

On ony day. 

Feart that iity cruicket verse should spairge 

Some wark of wordie mak*, 
I'se nae mair o' this head enlarge. 

But now my farewell tak' ; 
Lang may you live, lang may you write, 

And sing like English Weischtll, 
This prayer 1 do myself indite, 

From yours still, A ^\ . 

This very day. 





DEAR SIB, Ochterttjrey 22d October, 1787. 
Allow me to introduce Mr Bums, whose 
poems, I dare say, have given you much plea- 
sure. Upon a personal acquaintance, I doubt 
not, yon will relish the man as much as bis 
works, in which there is a rich vein of intel- 
lectual ore. He has heard some of our High- 
land luinigsi or songs played, which delighted 
him so much that he has made words to one 
or two of them, which will render these more 
popular. As he has thought of being in your 
quarter, I am persuaded you will not think it 
labour lost to indulge the poet of nature with 
a sample of those sweet artless melodies, which 
only want to be married (in MiJ ton's phrase) 
to congenial words. I wish we could conjure 
up the ghost of Joseph M*D. to infuse into 

our bard a portion of his enthusiasm for those 
neglected airs, which do not suit the fastidious 
musicians of the present hour. But if it be 
true that Corelli (whom I looked on as the 
Homer of music) is out of date, it is no proof 
of their taste ; — this, however, is going out of 
my province. You can show Mr Burns the 
manner of singing these same luinigs ; and, if 
he can humour it in words, I do not despair of 
seeing one of them sung upon the stage, in the 
original style, round a napkin. 

I am very sorry we are likely to meet so 
seldom in this neighbourhood. It is one of 
the greatest drawbacks that attends obscurity, 
that one has so few opportunities of cidtivating 
acquaintances at a distance. I hope, however, 
some time or other, to have the pleasure of 
beating up your quarters at Erskine, and of 
hauling you away to Paisley, &c. ; meanwhile 
I beg to be remembered to Messrs Boog and 

If Mr B. goes by , give bim a billet on 

our friend Mr Stuart, who, I presume, does 
not dread the frown of his diocesan, 
I am, Dear Sir, 
Your most obedient humble servant, 



DEAR SIR, Ochlertyre, 27th October, 1787. 
I RECEIVED yours bjr Mr Bums, and give you 
many thanks for giving me an opportunity of 
conversing with a man of his calibre. He 
will, I doubt not, let you know what passed 
between us on the subject of my hints, to which 
I have made additions, in a letter sent him 
t'other day to your care. 

You may tell Mr Bums, when you see him, 
that Colonel Edmonstoune told me t'other day, 
that his cousin. Colonel George Crawford, 
was no poet, but a great singer of songs ; but 
that his eldest brother Robert (by a former 
marriage) bad a great turn that way, having 
written the words of The Bush aboon Traguair, 
and Tweedside. That the Mary to whom it 
was addressed was Mary Stewart of the Cas- 
tlemilk family, afterwards wife of Mr John 
Relches. The Colonel never saw Robert 
Crawford, though he was at his burial fifty- 
five years ago. He was a pretty young man, 
and had lived long in France. Lady Anker- 
ville is his niece, and may know more of bis 
poetical vein. An epitaph. monger like me 
might moralize upon the vanity of life, and the 
vanity of those sweet effusions — But I have 


bardly room to offer my best compliments to 
Mrs filacklock ; and I am, 
Dear Doctor, 
Your most obedient humble servant, 




No. XL. 

MY DEAR 8ia, London, 28th October, 1787. 
As my friend, Mr Brou^n, is going from this 
place to your neighbourhood, I embrace the 
opportunity of telling you that J am yet alive, 
tolerably well, and always in expectation of 
being better. Bv the much.valued letters be- 
fore me, 1 see that it was my duty to have 
given you this intelligence about three years 
and nine months ago ; and have nothing to 
allege as an excuse but that we poor, busy, 
bustling bodies in London, are so much taken 
up with the various pursuits in which we are 
here engaged, that we seldom think of any 
person, creature, place, or thing, that is absent. 
But this is not altogether the case with me ; 
for I often think of you, and Hornie, and Rus- 
self and an unfathomed depths and lowan brun- 
gtaney all in the same minute, although you and 
they are (as I suppose) at a considerable dis. 
tance. I flatter myself, however, with the 
pleasing thought, that you and I shall meet 
some time or other either in Scotland or Eng- 
land. If ever you come hither, you will have 
the satisfaction of seeing your poems relished 
by the Caledonians in London, full as much as 
they can be by those of Edinburgh. We 
frequently repeat some of your verses in our 
Caledonian society ; and you may believe, that 
I am not a little vuin that I have had sumc 
share in cultivating such a genius. I was not 
absolutely certain that you were the author, 
till a few days ago, when I made a visit to 
Mrs Hill, Dr M' Comb's eldest daughter, who 
lives in town, and who told me that she was 
informed of it by a letter from her sister in 
Edinburgh, with whom you had been in com> 
pany when in tbat capital. 

Pray let me know if you have any intention 
of visiting this huge, overgrown metropolis ? 
It would afford matter for a large poem. Here 
you would have an opportunity of indulging 
your vein in the study of mankind, perhaps to 
a greater degree than in any city upon the face 
of the globe ; for the inhabitants of Londoti, 
as you know, are a collection of all nations, 
kindreds, and tongues, who make it, as it were, 
the centre of their commerce. 

Present my respectful compliments to Mrs 
Burns, to my dear friend Gilbert, and all the 
rest of her amiable children. May the Father 
of the universe bless you all with those princi 


pies and dispositions that the best of parents 
took such uncommon pains to instil into your 
minds from your earliest infancy ! May you 
live as he did ! if you do, you can never be 
unhappy. I feel myself grown serious all at 
once, and affected in a manner I cannot de- 
scribe. I shall only add, that it is one of the 
greatest pleasures I promise myself before I 
die, that of seeing the family of a man whose 
memory I revere more than that of any person 
that ever I was acquainted with. 
1 am, my dear Friend, 

Yours sitjcerely, 


No. XLL 

SIR, Gordon Castle, 3Ut October, 1787. 

If you were not sensible of your fault as well 
as of your loss in leaving this place so sud- 
denly, I should condemn you to starve upon 
ctiuld kail for ae towmont at least ; and as fur 
Dick Latine,* your travelling companion, 
without banning him wi^ a* the curses contain- 
ed in your letter, (which he'll no value a 6aw- 
bee,) I should give him nought but Strcf bogie 
castocks to chew for sax ouks, or aye until he 
was as sensible of his error as you seem to bt 
of yours. 

Your song I showed without producing the 
author *, and it was judged by the Duchess to 
be the production of Dr Beattie. I sent a 
copy of it, by her Grace's desire, to a Mrs 
M*Pher8on in Badenoch, who sings Moray 
and all other Gaelic songs in great perfection. 
I have recorded it likewise, by Lady Char- 
lotte's desire, in a book belonging to her lady- 
ship, where it is in company with a great many 
other poems and verses, some of the writers of 
which are no less eminent for their political 
than for their poetical abilities. When the 
Duchess was informed that you were the author 
she wished you had written the verses in Scotch. 

Any letter directed to me here will come to 
hand safely, and, if sent under the Duke*8 
cover, it will likewise come free ; that i«, aa 
long as the Duke is in this country. 

I am, Sir, yours sincerely. 


SIR, Linshart, Wdh November, 1787. 

YouB kind return without date, but of post- 


Mr NicoU 



mark October 25th, came to my hand only this 
fiuy; and, to testify my punctuality to my 
poetic engagement, I sit down immediately to 
answer it in kind. Your acknowledgment of 
my poor but just encomiums on your surpris- 
irig genius, and your opinion of my rhyming 
excursions, are both, I think, by far too high. 
The difference between our two tracts of edu- 
cation and the ways of life is entirely in your 
favour, and gives you the preference every 
manner of way. I know a classical education 
will not create a versifying taste, but it migh- 
tily improves and assists it ; and though, where 
both these meet, there may sometimes be 
ground fof approbation, yet where taste appears 
single, as it were, and neither cramped nor 
supported by acquisition, I will always sustain 
the justice of its prior claim to applause. A 
small portion of taste, this way, I have had 
almost from childhood, especially in the old 
Scottish dialect ; and it is as old a thing as I 
remember, my fondness for ChrisCs kirk o* the 
Green, which I had by heart ere I was twelve 
years of age, and which, some years ago, I at- 
tempted to turn into Latin verse. While I 
was young, I dabbled a good deal in these 
things ; but on getting the black gown, I gave 
it pretty much over, till my daughters grew up, 
who, being all good singers, plagued me for 
words to some of their favourite tunes, and so 
extorted these effusions, which have made a 
public appearance beyond my expectation, and 
contrary to my intentions, at the same time, 
that I hope there is nothing to be found in 
them uncharacteristic, or unbecoming the 
cloth, which I would always wish to see re- 

As to the assistance you propose from me 
in the undertaking you are engaged in,* I am 
sorry I cannot give it so far as I could wish, 
and you, perhaps, expect. My daughters, who 
were my only intelligencers, are bW foris fa- 
miliate, and the old woman their mother has 
lost that taste. There are two from my own 
pen, which I might give you, if worth the 
while. One to the old Scotch tune of Dum- 
barton's Drums. 

The other perhaps you have met with, as 
vour noble friend the Duchess has, I am told, 
heard of it. It was squeezed out of me by a 
brother parson in her neighbourhood, to ac- 
commodate a new Highland reel for the Mar- 
quis's birth-day, to the stanza of 

•' Tune your fiddles, tunc them sweetly." &c. 

If this last answer your purpose, you may 
have it from a brother of mine, JVir James 
Skinner, writer in Edinburgh, who, I believe, 
can give the music too. 

There is another humorous thing, I have 
heard said to be done by the Catholic priest 
Geddes, and which hit my taste much : 

* " A plan of publisUiog a complete collection of Scut- 
ti h Soii^,'* &c 

'• There was a wee wifeikio was coming frae tie 

Hud gotten a h'ttle drapikie, which bred her 

meikle care ; 
It took upo' the >vific's heart, and she began to 


And quo' the wee wifeikie, I wish I hinna fou, 

I wish, &c. &c" 

I have heard of another new composition, by 
a young ploughman of my acquaintance, that I 
am vastly pleased with, to the tune of The 
humours of Glen, which I fear won't do, as the 
music, I am told, is of Irish original. I have 
mentioned these, such as they are, to show my 
I eadiness to oblige you, and to contribute my 
niite, if I could, to the patriotic work you have 
in hand, and which I wish all success to. You 
liave only to notify your mind, and what you 
want of the above shall be sent you. 

Meantime, while you are thus publicly, I 
may say, employed, do not sheath your own 
proper and piercing weapon. From what I 
have seen of yours already, I am inclined to 
hope for much good. One lesson of virtue 
and morality, delivered in your amusing style, 
and from such as you, will operate more than 
dozens would do from such as me, who shall 
be told it is our employment, and be never 
more minded : whereas, from a pen like yours, 
as being one of the many, what comes will be 
admired. Admiration will produce regard, 
and regard will leave an impression, especially 
when example goes along. 

Now bmna saying I'm ill bred, 
Klse, by my troth, I'll not be glad 
For cadgers, ye have heard it said, 

And sic like fry. 
Maun aye be harland in their trade. 

And sae maun ]. 

Wishing you from my poet-pen, all success, 
and in my other character, all happiness and 
heavenly direction, 

I remain, with esteem, 

Your sincere friend, 


No. XL III. 

SIR, K k Castle, 30th November, 1787. 

I HOPE you will do me the justice to believe, 
that it was no defect in gratitude for your 
punctual performance of your paiting promise, 
that has made me so long in acknowledging it, 
but merely the difficulty I had in getting the 
Highland songs you wished to have, accurately 
noted ; they are at last inclosed ; but how 
shall I convey along with them those graces 
»hey acquired from the melodious voice of one 
of the fair spirits of the hill of Kildrummie ! 

• Mrs Rosa of Kiiravork, Nairn«hire. 



These I muiit leave to your imaginHtion to 
supply. It bus powers sufficient to transport 
you to her side, to recall her accents, and to 
make tbem still vibrate in the ears of memory. 
To ber I am indebted for getting the inclosed 
notes. They are clothed with " thoughts that 
breathe, and words that burn." These, bow- 
ever, being in an unknown tongue to you, you 
must again have recourse to that same fertile 
imagination of yours to interpret them, and 
suppose a lover's description of the beauties of 
an adored mistress — why did I say unkno\^'n ? 
The language of love is an universal one, that 
seems to have escaped the confusion of Babel, 
and to be understood by all nations. 

1 rejoice to find that you were pleased with 
60 many things, persons, and places in your 
northern tour, because it leads me to hope you 
may be induced to revisit them again. That 

the old castle of K k, and its inhabitants 

were amongst these, adds to my satisfaction. 
I am even vain enough to admit your very 
flattering application of the line of Addison's ; 
at any rate, allow me to believe that ** friend- 
ship will maintain the ground she has occupied" 
in both our hearts, in spite of absence, and 
that, when we do meet, it will be as acquain- 
tance of a score of years standing ; and on this 
footing, consider me as interested in the future 
course of your fame, so splendidly commenced. 
Any communications of the progress of your 
muse will be received with great gratitude, and 
the fire of your genius will have power to warm, 
even us, frozen sisters of the north. 

The friends of K k and K e 

unite in cordial regards to you. When you 
incline to figure either in your idea, suppose 
some of us reading your poems, and some of 
us singing your songs, and my little Hugh 
looking at your picture, and you'll seldom be 
wrong. VVe remember Mr N. with as much 
good will as we do any body, who hurried Mr 
Bums from us. 

Farewell, sir, I can only contribute the 
widow's mite to the esteem and admiration ex- 
cited by your merits and genius, but this I give 
as she did, with all my heart— being sincerely 

E. R. 


No. XLIV. 


DEAR SIR, Edinburghy 1787. 

I 6UPF0SE the devil is so elated with his suc- 
cess with you, that he is determined by a coup 
de main to complete his purposes on you all at 
once, in making you a poet. I broke open the 
letter you sent me ; hummed over the rhymes ; 
and, as I saw they were extempore, said to 
myself they were very well : but when I saw 
at the bottom a name that I shall ever value 

with grateful respect, " I gapit wide but nae^ 
thing spak." I was nearly as much struck as 
the friends of Job, of affliction-bearing me- 
mory, when they sat down with him seven days 
and seven nights, and spake not a word. 

1 am naturally of a superstitious cast, and as 
soon as my wonder-scared imagination regained 
its consciousness and resumed its functions, I 
cast about what this mania of yours might 
portend. My foreboding ideas had the wide 
stretch of possibility ; and several events, great 
in their magnitude, and important in their con> 
sequences, occurred to my fancy. The down- 
fal of the conclave, or the crushing of the cork 

rumps ; a ducal coronet to Lord George G 

and the protestant interest; or Saint Peter's 
kevs to 

You want to kno.v how I come on. I am 
just in statu quo, or, not to insult a gentleman 
with my Latin, ** in auld use and wont." The 
noble Earl of Glencaini took me by the hand 
to-day, and interested himself in my concerns, 
with a goodness like that benevolent being, 
whose image he so richly bears. He is a 
stronger proof of the immortality of the soul, 
than any that philosophy ever produced. A 
mind like his can never die. Let the worship, 
ful squire, H. L. or the reverend Mass J. M. 
go into their primitive nothing. At best they 
are but ill-digested lumps of chaos, only one of 
them strongly tinged with bituminous particles 
and sulphureous effluvia. But my noble pa- 
tron, eternal as the heroic swell of magnani- 
mity, and the generous throb of benevolence, 
shall look on with princely eye at " the war ot 
elements, the wreck of matter, and the crash 
of worlds." 

No. XLV. 


Edinburgh^ 2\8t January, 17S8. 
AfTER six weeks' confinement, I am beginning 
to walk across the room. They have l^en six 
horrible weeks ; anguish and low spirits made 
me unfit to read, write, or think. 

I have a hundred times wished that one 
could resign life as an officer resigns a commis- 
sion ; for I would not take in any poor, igno- 
rant wretch, by selling out. Lately I was a 
sixpenny private ; and, God knows, a miserable 
soldier enough ; now I march to the campaign, 
a starving cadet; a little more conspicuously 

I am ashamed of all this ; for though I do 
want bravery for the warfare of life, I could 
wish, like some other soldiers, to have as much 
fortitude or cunning as to dissemble or conceal 
my cowardice. 

As soon as I can bear the journey, which 



Creature, tho' oft iJhe prey of care mid sorrow, 
When b/ess'd to-day unmindful of to-morrow. 
\ being form'd t' amuse his graver friends, 
Admired aiid praised— and there the homage 

ends : 
A mortal quite unfit for fortune's strife, 
Yet oA the sport of all the ills of life; 
Prone to enjoy each pleasure riches give, 
Yet haply wanting wlierewithal to live: 
Ijonping to wipe tach tear, to heal each groan, 
Yet frequent all unhtLiicd in his ovnu 

But honest Nature is not quite a Turk, 
She laugh'd at f.Tst, then tVll for her poor work. 
Pitying the propless rlinibcr of mankind, 
She cast about a standard tree lo find ; 
And to support his helpless \^oodhine stale, 
Atlaclrd him lo the generous truli/ great, 
A title, and the only one 1 claim, 
To lay strong hold for help on bounteous Graham. 

Pity the tuneful muses' hapless train. 
Weak, timid landmen on life's stormy main I 
Their hearts no selfish stem absorbent stuff, 
Tliat never gives — tho' humbly takes enough ; 
'J'he little fate allows, they share as soon. 
Unlike sage, proverb'd, wisdom's hard-wrung 

The world were bless*d, did bless on them de- 
Ah, that *• the friendly e'er should want a friend !" 
l^et prudence number o'er each sturdy son. 
Who life and wisdom at one race begun, 
Who feel by reason, and who give by rule, 
(Instinct's a brute, and sentiment a fool !) 
Who make poor will d) wait upon / should — 
We oYrn tiiey're pi-udent, but who feels they're 

Ye wise ones, hence ! ye hurt the social eye ! 
Ciod's image rudely etch'd on base alloy ! 
But come ye who the godlike pleasure know, 
Heaven's attribute distinguish d — to bestow! 
Whose arms of love would grasp the human 

Come thou who giv'st with all a courtiers 

Friend of my life^ true patron of my rhymes ! 
Prop of my dearest houes for future times. 
Why shrinks my soul naif blushing, half afraid. 
Backward, abtish'd to ask thy friendly aid ? 
1 know my need, 1 know thy giving hand, 
I crave thy friendship at thy kind command; 
But there are such wlio court the tuneful nine — 
Heavens, should thebranded character be mine! 
Whose verse in manhood's pride sublimely flows, 
Yet vilest reptiles in their begging prose. 
Mark, how their lofty Independent spirit, 
Soars on the spurning wing of injured merit ! 
Seek not the proofs in private life to find ; 
Pity, the best of words, should be but wind ! 
So, to heaven's gates the lark-shrill song ascends, 
But grovelling on tlie eartli the carol ends. 
In all the clam'rous cry of starving want. 
They dun benevolence with shameless front; 
Oblige them, patronize their tinsel lays. 
They persecute ) ou all your future days ! 
Ere my poor soul such deep damnation stain, 
My homy fist assume the plough again ; 
The pie-baird jacket let me patch once more ; 
On eighteen pence a-week Pve lived before. 
Though, thanks to heaven, I dare even tliat last 

1 trust, meuutim*', my boon is in thy gift: 

That placed by thee, upon the wisli'd- for height. 
Where, man and nature fairer In her sight, 
My muse may imp her wing for some sublimer 

No. LXI. 

Mauchline, \8t October, 1788. 

I HAVE been here in this country about thre« 
days, and all that time my chief reading hai 
been the ** Address to Loch Lomond," you 
were so obliging as to send to me. Were I 
impannelled one of the author's jury, to de- 
termine his criminality respecting the sin ot 
poesy, my verdict should be *' guilty ! A poet 
of NaCure*s making !" It is an excellent me- 
thod for improvement, and what I believe 
every poet does, to place some favourite classic 
author, in bis own walks of study and eompo- 
sition, before him, as a model. Though 
your author bad not mentioned the name, I 
could have, at half a glance, guessed his model 
to be Thomson. Will my brother poet for- 
give me, if I venture to bint, that his imitation 
of that immortal bard, is in two or three places 
rather more servile than such a genius as his 
required. — e. g. 

To soothe the madding passions all to peace, 


To soothe the throbbing passions into peace, 


I think the Address is, in simplicity, har- 
mony, and elegance of versification, fully equal 
to the Seasons, Like Thomson, too, he has 
looked into nature for himself: you meet with 
no copied description. One particular criti- 
cism I made at first reading : in no one in- 
stance has he said too much. He never flags 
in his progress, but like a true poet of Nature's 
making, kindles in his course. His beginning 
is simple, and modest, as if distrustful of the 
strength of his pinion ; only, I do not altoge- 
ther like 

'* Truth, 
The soul of every song that's nobly great." 

Fiction is the soul of many a song that is 
nobly great. Perhaps I am wrong : this may 
be but a prose criticism. Is not the phrase, 
in line 7, page C, " Great lake," too much vul- 
garized by e very-day language, for so sublime 
a poem ? 

• llils is our poet'iJ first epistle to Graham of Fintry. 
It is nut equiU tn tlie strund, but it contains too murh 
of the rharaeteritttic viRtiur uf its author to be suppress, 
ed. A little more knowledge of natural history or of 
chfiniHtry was wanted to enable him to execute tlia 
urigtiiul concepUoD correctly 

"*^ -^ - -^ 




'* Great mass of waters, ihtino fur iiol»Jcr song, 

is perhaps no emendation. His enumeration 
of a comparison with other lakes, is at once 
harmonious and poetic. Every reader's ideas 
m'Lst sweep the 

•' Winding margin of an hundred miles." 

The perspective that follows mountains blue 
— the imprisoned billows beating in vain — the 
wooded isles — the digression on the yew tree — 
** Ben Lomond's lofty cloud-enveloped head," 
&c. are beautiful. A thunder-storm is a sub- 
ject which has been often tried, yet our poet, 
in his grand picture, has interjected a circum- 
stance, so far as I know, entirely original : 

" The gloom 
Deep seam'd with frequent streaks of moving 

In his preface to the storm, " the glens how 
dark between," is noble highland landscape ! 
The "rain plowing the red mould," too, is 
beautifully fancied. Ben Lomond's " lofty, 
pathless top," is a good expression ; and the 
surrounding view from it is truly great ; the 

** Silver mist, 
" Beneatli the beaming sun,*' 

is well described ; and here, he has contrived 
to enliven his poem with a little of that passion 
wnich bids fair, I think, to usurp the modern 
muses altogether. I know not how far this 
episode is a beauty upon the whole, but the 
swain's wish to carry ** some faint idea of tbe 
vision bright," to entertain her '* partial listen- 
ing ear," is a pretty thought. But, in my 
opinion, the most beautiful passages in the 
whole poem, are the fowls crowding, in wintry 
frosts, to Loch Lomond's ** hospitable flood ;" 
their wheeling round, their lighting, mixing, 
diving, &c. and the glorious description of the 
sportsman. This last is equal to any thing in 
the SeusoTts. The idea of ** the floating tribes 
distant seem, tar glistering to the moon," pro- 
voking his eye as he is obliged to leave them, 
is a noble ray of poetic genius. " The howl- 
ing winds," tiie " hideous roar" of " the white 
cascades," are all in the same style. 

I forget that while J am thus holding forth, 
with tbe heedless warmth of an enthusiast, I 
dm perhaps tiring you with nonsense. I must, 
however, mention, that the last verse of the 
sixteenth page is one of the most elegant com- 
pliments I have ever seen. I must likewise 
notice that beautiful paragraph, beginning, 
" The gleaming lake," &:c. I dare not go into 
the particular beauties of the two last para- 
graphs, but they are admirably fine, and truly 

I must beg your pardon for this lengthened 
scrawl. I had no ideii of it when I began — I 
should like to know who the author is ; but, 

vvliocver he be, please present him with my 
grateful thanks for the entertainment he has 
afforded me.* 

A friend of mine desired me to commission 
for him two books. Letters on the Religion es. 
sential to Man, a book you sent me before ; 
and, The World Unmasked, or the Philosopher ' 
the greatest Cheat. Send me them by the first 
opportunity. The Bible you sent me is truly 
elegant ; I only wish it had been in two vol- 




MADAAi, MaucMine, \3ih November ^ 1788. 

I HAD the ver}' great pleasure of dining at 
Dunlop yesterday. Men are said to flattei 
women because they are weak ; if it is so, 
poets must be weaker still; for Misses R. and 
K. and Miss G. M'K. with their flattering 
attentions, and artful compliments, absolutely 
turned my head. I own they did not lard me 
over as many a poet does his patron . . . 

but they so intoxicated 

me with their sly insinuations and delicate inu- 
endos of compliment, that if it had not been 
for a lucky recollection, how much additional 
weight and lustre your good opinion and friend* 
ship must give me in that circle, 1 had cex-. 
tainly looked upon myself as a person of no 
small consequence. I dare not say one word 
how much 1 was charmed with the major's 
friendly welcome, elegant manner, and acute 
remark, lest I should be thought to balance 
my orientalisms of applause over against the 
finest queyf in Ayrshire, which he made a 
present of to help and adorn my farm-stock. 
As it was on hallow-day, I am determined 
annually as that day returns, to decorate her 
horns with an ode of gratitude to the family of 

So soon as I know of your arrival at Dun- 
lop, I will take the first conveniency to dedi- 
cate a day, or perhaps two, to you and friend- 
ship, under the guarantee of the major's 
hospitality. There will soon be threescore 
and ten miles of permanent distance between 
us ; and now that your friendship and friendly 
correspondence is entwisted with the heart 
strings of mv enjoyment of life, I must indulgi 
myself in a happy day of ** The feast of reason 
and the flow of soul." 

* The poem entitled An Addrett to Look Lomond^ is 
said to be written by a gentleman, now one of the miw. 
ters of tbe High School at Edinburgh, and Uie same wh<» 
translated the beautiful htory of the I'arta^ as pjiM-UfU 
in the Bee of Dr AiidHrson 

t H.ifer 



No. Lxni. 


gm, NovembeTy 8, 1 788. 

Notwithstanding the opprobrious epithets 
with which some of our philosophers and gloomy 
sectaries have branded our nature — the princi- 
ple of universal selfishness, the proneness to 
all evil, they have giv n us; still, the detes- 
tation in which iiilmmanity to the distressed, 
Of insolence to the fallen, are held by all man- 
kind, shows that they are not natives of the 
human heart. — Even the unhappy partner of 
our kind, who is undone— the bitter conse- 
quence of his follies or his crimes — who but 
sympathizes with the miseries of this ruined 
profligate brother? we forget the injuries, and 
feel for the man. 

I went last Wednesday to my parish church, 
most cordially to join in grateful acknowledg- 
ments to the Author of all Good, for the 
consequent blessings of the glorious revolution. 
To that auspicious event we owe no less than 
our liberties civil and religious ; to it we are 
likewise indebted for the present Royal Fami- 
ly, the ruling features of whose administration 
have ever bccii, mildness to the subject, and 
tenderness of liis rights. 

Bred and educated in revolution principles, 
the principles of reason and common sense, it 
could not be any silly political prejudice which 
made my heai't revolt at the harsh, abusive 
manner, in which the reverend gentleman 
mentioned the House of Stuart, and which 1 
am afraid, was too much the language ot the 
clay. We may rejoice sufficiently in our deli- 
verance from past evils, without cruelly raking 
up the ashes of those, whose misfortune it 
was, perhaps as much as their crime, to be the 
authors of those evils *, and we may bless God 
for all his goodness to us as a nation, without, 
at the same time, cursing a few ruined, power- 
less exiles, who only harboured ideas, and 
made attempts, that most of us would have 
done, had we been in their situation. 

*' The bloody and tyrannical House of 
Stuart," may be said with propriety and jus- 
tice when compared with the present Royal 
Family, and the sentiments of our days ; but 
is there no allowance to be made for the man- 
ners of the times ? Were the royal contempo- 
raries of the Stuarts more attentive to their 
hubjects* rights? Might not the epithets of 
** bloody atid tyrannicaT' be, wnth at least equal 
justice, applied to the House of Tudor, of 
York, or any other of their predecessors ? 

The simple state of the case, sir, seems to 
be this — At that period, the science of govern- 
ment, the knowledge of the true relation be- 
tween king and subject, was, like other sciences 
and other knowledge, just in its infancy, emerg- 
ing from dark ages of ignorance and barharity. 

The Stuarts only contended for prerogatives 
which they knew their predecessors enjoyed, 
and which they saw their contemporaries en 

joying ; but these prerogatives were inimical to 
the happiness of a nation, and the rights of 

Jn this contest between prince and people, 
the consequence of that light of science, which 
had lately dawned over Europe, the monarch 
of France, for example, was victorious over 
the struggling liberties of his people : with us, 
lu(kily the monarch failed, and his unwarran- 
table pretensions fell a sacrifice to our rights 
and happiness. Whether it was owing to the 
wisdom of leading individuals, or to the just- 
ling of parties, I caimot pretend to determine ; 
but likewise, happily for us, the kingly power 
was shifted into another branch of the family, 
who, as they owed the throne solely to the 
cull of a free people, could claim nothing in- 
consistent with the covenanted terms which 
placed them there. 

The Stuarts have been condemned and 
laughed at for the folly and impracticability of 
their attempts in 1715 and 1745. That they 
failed, I bless God •, but cannot join in the 
ridicule against them. Who does not know 
that the abilities or defects of leaders and 
commanders are often hidden until put to the 
touchstone of exigency ; and that there is a 
caprice of fortune, an omnipotence in particu- 
lar accidents and conjunctures of circumstances, 
which exalt us as heroes, or brand us as mad- 
men, just as they are for or against us ? 

Man, Mr Publisher, is a strange, weak, in- 
consistent being. Who would believe, sir, 
that, in this our Augustan age of liberality and 
refinement, while we seem so justly sensible 
and jealous of our rights and liberties, and ani- 
mated with such indignation against the very 
memory of those who would have subverted 
them — that a certain people, under our na- 
tional protection, should complain not against 
our monarch and a few favourite advisers, but 
against our whole legislative body, for 
similar oppression, and almost in the very 
same terms, as our forefathers did of the 
House of Stuart ! I will not, I cannot enter 
into the merits of the cause, but I dare say 
the American Congress, in 1776, will be al- 
lowed to be as able and as enlightened as the 
English convention was in 1688; and that 
their posterity will celebrate the centenary of 
their deliverance from us, as duly and sincerely 
as we do ours from the oppressive measures of 
the wrong-headed House of Stuart. 

To conclude, sir; let every man who has a 
tear for the many miseries incident to humani- 
ty, feel for a family illustrious as any in Eu- 
rope, and unfortunate beyond historic prece- 
dent; and let every Briton (and particularly 
every Scotsman), who ever looked with reve- 
rential pity on the dotage of a parent, cast a 
veil over the fatal mistakes of the kings of his 
forefathers. • 

* Tliis letter was sent to the pablialicr of some news. 
oaper» probably the piiblu»her of the Edinburgh Evinm 
ing Courantt 



No. LXIV. 

EUisland, Mih December, 1788. 


VouBS, dated Edinburgh, which I have just 
read, makes me very unhappy. Almost " blind 
and wholly deaf," are melancholy news of hu- 
man nature ; but when told of a much loved 
and honoured friend, they carry misery in the 
sound. Goodness on your part, and gratitude 
on mine, began a tie, which has gradually and 
strongly entwisted itself among the dearest 
chords of my bosom ; and I tremble at the 
omens of your late and present ailing habits 
and shattered health. You miscalculate mat- 
ters widely, when you forbid my waiting on 
you, lest it should hurt my worldly concerns. 
My small scale of farming is exceedingly more 
simple and easy than what you have lately 
seen at Moreham Mains. But be that as it 
may, the heart of the man, and the fancy of 
the poet, are the two grand considerations for 
which I live : if miry ridges, and dirty dung- 
hills are to engross the best part of the func- 
tions of my soul immortal, I had better been 
a rook or a magpie at once, and then I should 
not have been plagued with any ideas superior 
to breaking of clods, and picking up grubs ; 
not to mention barn-door cocks or mallards, 
creatures with which I could almost exchange 
lives at any time. — If you continue so deaf, I 
am afraid a visit will be no great pleasure to 
either of us ; but if I hear you are got so well 
again as to be able to relish conversation, look 
you to it, madam, for I will make my threaten- 
ings good : I am to be at the new-year-day 
fair of Ayr, and by all that is sRcied in the 
world, friend, I will come and se^' you. 

Vour meeting, which you so well describe, 
with your old schoolfellow and friend, was 
truly interesting. Out upon the ways of the 
world ! — They spoil these ** social offsprings 
of the heart." Two veterans of the " men of 
the world" would have met, with little more 
heart-workings than two old hacks worn out 
on the road. Apropos, is not the Scotch 
phrase, ** Auld langsyne," exceedingly expres- 
sive. There is an old song and tune which 
has often thrilled through ray soul. You 
know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I 
shall give you the verses on the other sheet, as 
I suppose Mr Ker will save you the postage. • 

Light be the turf on the breast of the Hea- 
ven-inspired poet who composed this glorious 
fragment ! There is more of the fire of native 
genius in it, than in half a dozen of modem 
English Bacchanalians. Now I am on my 

hobby horse, I cannot help inserting two other 
old stanzas, which please me mightily. 

Go fetch to me a pint o* wine. 

An* fill it in a silver tassie; 
That I may drink, before 1 go, 

A service to my bonnie lassie : 
The boat rocks at the pier o' Leitli ; 

Fu' loud the wind blaws frae the ferry, 
The ship rides by the Berwick-law, 

And 1 maun lea'e my honnie Mary. 

The trumpets sound, the banners fly, 

Tne glittering spears are ranked ready: 
The shouts o* war are heard afar. 

The battle closes thick and bloody: 
But it's not the roar o* sea or shore. 

Wad make me langcr wish to tarry ; 
Nor shouts o* war that's heard afar, 

It's leaving thee, my bonnie Mary. 

No. LXV. 



December i 1788. 

♦ Here foUowa the sonjf of Auld Ian , >yue. 

I UNDERSTAND my Very worthy neighbour, 
Mr Riddel, has informed you that I have made 
you the subject of some verses. There is 
something so provoking in the idea of being 
the burden of a ballad, that I do not think 
Job or Moses, though such patterns of pa- 
tience and meekness, could have resisted the 
curiosity to know what that ballad Mas : so 
my worthy friend has done me a mischief, 
which I dare say he never intended ; and re- 
duced me to the unfortunate alternative of 
leaving your curiosity ungratified, or else dis- 
gusting you with foolish verses, the unfinished 
production of a random moment, and never 
meant to have met your ear. I have heard or 
read somewhere of a gentleman, who had some 
genius, much eccentricity, and very consider, 
able dexterity with his pencil. In the acci- 
dental groups of life into which one is thrown, 
wherever this gentleman met with a character 
in a more than ordinary degree congenial to 
his heart, he used to stertl a sketch of the face, 
merely he said, as a nota bene to point out the 
agreeable recollection to his memory. What 
this gentleman^s pencil was to him, is my muse 
to me ; and the verses I do myself the honour 
to send you are a memento exactly of the same 
kind that he indulged in. 

It may be more owing to the fastidiousness 
of my caprice, than the delicacy of my taste, 
that 1 am so often tired, disgusted, and hurt 
with the insipidity, affectation, and pride of 
mankind, that when I meet with a person 
** after my own heart," I positively feel what 
an orthodox protestant would call a sptcies of 
idolatry which acts on my fancy like inspiration, 
and I can no more desist rVijrning on the im- 



pulse, than an iEolian barp can refuse its 
tones to the streaming air. A distich or two 
would be tbe consequence, tbougb tbe object 
which hit ray fancy were grey-bearded age ; 
but where my theme is youth and beauty, a 
young lady whose personal charms, wit, and 
bentiment, are equally striking and unaffected, 
by heavens ! though I had lived threescore 
years a married man, and threescore years be- 
fore I was a married man, my ima^nation 
would hallow the very idea ; and I am truly 
sorry that the inclosed stanzas have done such 
poor justice to such a subject. 

No. LXVI. 

SIR, December, 1788. 

Mr M'Kenzie, in Mauchline, my very warm 
and worthy friend, has informed me how much 
you are pleased to interest yourself in my fate 
as a man, and, (what to me is incomparably 
dearer) my fame as a poet. I have, sir, in one 
or two instances, been patronized by those of 
your character in life, when I was mtroduced 
to their notice by — ^-— friends to them, 
and honoured acquaintances to me : but you 
are the first gentleman in the country whose 
benevolence and goodness of heart has inter, 
ested him for me, unsolicited and unknown. 
I am not master enough of the etiquette of 
these matters to know, nor did I stay to in- 
quire, whether formal duty bade, or cold pro- 
priety disallowed, my thanking you in this 
manner, as I am convinced, from the light in 
which you kindly view me, that you w^ill do 
me the justice to believe this letter is not the 
manoeuvre of a needy, sharping author, fasten> 
ing on those in upper life, who honour him 
with a little notice of him or his works. In- 
deed the situation of poets is generally such, to 
a proverb, as may, in some measure, palliate 
that prostitution of heart and talents they have 
at times been guilty of. I do not think prodi- 
gality is, by any means, a necessary concomi- 
tant of a poetic turn, but believe a careless, 
indolent inattention to economy, is almost in- 
separable from it ; then there must be in the 
heart of every bard of Nature's making, a 
certain modest sensibility, mixed with a kind 
^t pride, that will ever keep him out of the 
way of those windfalls of fortune, which fre- 
quently light on hardy impudence and foot- 
licking servility. It is not easy to imagine a 
more helpless state than his, whose poetic 
fancy unfits him for the world, and whose 
character as a scholar, gives him some preten- 
sions to the politesse of life — yet is as poor as 
I am. 

For my part, I thank Heaven, my star has 
been kinder ; learning never elevated my ideas 
above the peasant's shed, and I have an inde- 
pendent fortune at the plough-tail 

I was surprised to hear that any one, who 
pretended in the least to the manners of the 
gentleman^ should be so foolish, or worse, as to 
stoop to traduce the morals of such a one as I 
am, and so inhumanly cruel, too, as to meddle 
with that late most unfortiuiate, unhappy part 
of my story. With a tear of gratitude, I thank 
you, sir, for the warmth with which you inter- 
posed in behalf of my conduct I am, I ac- 
knowledge, too frequently the sport of whim, 
caprice, and passion — but reverence to God, 
and integrity to my fellow-creatures, I hope I 
shall ever preserve. I have no return, sir, to 
make you for your goodness but one— a return 
which, I am persuaded, will not be unaccepta- 
ble — the honest, warm wishes of a grateful 
heart for your happiness, and every one of that 
lovely flock, who stand to you in a filial rela- 
tion. If ever calumny aim the poisoned shaft 
at them, may friendship be by to ward the blow ' 


OBAR BROTHER, Mosifftel, Ut January , 1789. 
I HAVE just finished my new-year's-day break 
fast in the usual form, which naturally makes 
me call to mind the days of former years, and 
the society in which we used to begin them ; 
and when I look at our family vicissitudes, 
" through the dark postern of time long 
elapsed," I cannot help remarking to you, my 
dear brother, how good the God of Seasons 
is to us ; and that however some clouds may 
seem to lower over the portion of time before 
us, we have great reason to hope that all will 
turn out well. 

Your mother and sisters, with Robert the 
second, join me in the compliments of the 
season to you and Mrs Burns, and beg you 
will remember us in the same manner to Wil- 
Ham, the first time you see him. 

I am, dear brother, yours, 



EllLland, New Year-Day Morning, 1789. 
This, dear madam, is a morning of wishes, 
and would to God that I came under the 
apostle James's description ! — the prayer of a 
righteous man availeth much. In that case> 
madam, you should welcome in a year full of 
blessings ; every thing that obstructs or dia. 
turbs tranquillity and self-enjoyment, should be 
removed, and every pleasure that frail huma- 
nity can taste, should be yours. I own myself 
so little a Presbyterian, that I approve uf set 
times and seasons of more than ordinary acts 



of devotion, for breaking in on that habituated 
routine of life and thought, which is so apt to 
reduce our existence to a kind of instinct, or 
even sometimes, and with some minds, to a 
state very little superior to mere machinery. 

This day ; the first Sunday of May ; a 
breezy, blue-skyed noon some time about the 
beginning, and a hoary morning and calm sunny 
day about the end, of autumn ; these, time out 
of mind, have been with me a kind of holiday. 

I believe I owe this to that glorious paper 
in the Spectator, " The Vision of Mirza ;" a 
piece that struck my young fancy before I was 
capable of fixing an idea to a word of three 
syllables : " On the 3th day of the moon, 
which, according to the custom of my forefa- 
thers, I always keep holy^ after having washed 
myself, and offered up my morning devotions, 
I ascended the high hill of Bagdat, in order to 
pass the rest of the day in meditation and 

We know nothirjg, t)r next to nothing, of 
the substance or structure of our souls, so 
cannot account for those seeming caprices, in 
them, that one should be particularly pleased 
with this thing, or struck with that, which, on 
minds of a different cast, makes no extraordi- 
nary impression. I have some favourite 
flowers in spring, among which are the moun- 
tain daisy, the hare-bell, the fox-glove, the 
wild-brier rose, the budding birch, and the 
boary hawthorn, that I view and bang over 
with particular delight. I never hear the loud, 
solitary whistle of the curlew, in a summer 
noon, or the wild mixing cadence of a troop of 
grey plover, in an autumnal morning, without 
feeling an elevation of soul like the enthusiasm 
of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my dear 
friend, to what can this be owing ? Are we 
a piece of machinery, which, like the .^olian 
harp, passive, takes the impression of the pas- 
sing accident? Or do these workings argue 
something within us above the trodden clod ? 
I own myself partial to such proofs of those 
awful and important realities — a God that 
made all things — man's immaterial and im- 
mortal nature — and a world of weal or woe 
beyond death and the grave. 

No. LXIX. 


Eilislandy near Dum/rits, 4jM Jan. 1789. 

As often as I think of writing to you, which 
has been three or four times every week these 
six months, it gives me something so like the 
idea of an ordinary-sized stntuc offering Ht ;i 

conversation with the Rhodian Colossus, that 
my mind misgives me, and the affair always 
miscarries somewhere between purpose and 
resolve. I have, at last, got some business 
with you, and business-letters are written by 
the style-book. — I say my business is with 
you, sw, for you never had any with me, except 
the business that benevolence has in the man- 
sion of poverty. 

The character and employment of a poet 
were formerly my pleasure, but are now my 
pride. I know that a very great deal of my 
late eclat was owing to the singularity of my 
situation, and the honest prejudice of Scots- 
men ; but still, as I said in the preface to my 
first edition, I do look upon myself as having 
some pretensions from Nature to the poetic 
character. I have not a doubt but the knack, 
the aptitude, to learn the muses* trade, is a 
gift bestowed by Him " who forms the secret 
bias of the soul ;" — but as I firmly believe, that 
excellence in the profession is the fruit of in- 
dustry, labour, attention, and pains. At least 
I am resolved to try my doctrine by the test of 
experience. Another appearance from the 
press I put off to a very distant day, a day that 
may never arrive — but poesy I am determined 
to prosecute with all my vigour. Nature has 
given veiy few, if any, of the profession, th 
talents of shining in every species of composi- 
tion. I shall try (for until trial it is impossi- 
ble to know) whether she has qualified me to 
shine in any one. The worst of it is, by the 
time one has finished a piece, it has been so 
often viewed and reviewed before the mental 
eye, that one loses, in a good measure, the 
powers of critical discrimination. Here the 
best criterion I know is a friend — not only of 
abilities to judge, but with good nature enough, 
like a prudent teacher with a young learner, to 
praise perhaps a little more than is exactly 
just, lest the thin-skinned animal fall into that 
most deplorable of all poetic diseases — heart- 
breaking despondency of himself. Dare I, sir, 
already immensely indebted to your goodness, 
ask the additional obligation of your being that 
friend to me ? I enclose you an essay of mine, 
in a walk of poesy to me entirely new ; I mean 
the epistle addressed to R. G. Esq. or Robert 
Graham, of Fintry, Esq. a gentleman of un- 
common worth, to whom I lie under very 
great obligations. The story of the poem, like 
most of my poems, is connected with my own 
story, and to give you the one, I must give 
you something of the other. I cannot boast 

I believe I shall, in whole, £100 copy- right 
included, clear about j6400 some little odds ; 
and even part of this depends upon what the 
gentleman has yet to settle with me. I give 
vou this information, because you did me the 
honour to interest yourself much in my wel- 



To give the rest of my story in brief, I have 
married *• my Jean," and taken a farm ; with 
the first step I have every day more and more 
reason to be satisfied ; with the last, it is 
rather the reverse. ] have a younger brother, 
who supports my aged mother ; another still 
younger brother, at)d three sisters, in a farm. 
On my lust return from Edinburgh, it cost me 
a'jout ^160 to save them from ruin. Not 
that I have lost so much — I only interposed 
lu'tsveen my brother and his impending fate by 
the loan of so much. I give myself no airs 
on this, fur it was mere selfishness on my part ; 
I was conscious that the wrong scale of the 
balance was pretty heavily charged, and I 
tiionyht tiiat throwing a little filiiil piety, and 
trattrnal affection, into the scale in my favour, 
might help to smooth matters at the grand 
reckoning. There is still one thing would 
make my circumstances quite easy ; I have an 
excise officer's commission, and I live in the 
midst of a country division. My request to 
Mr Graham, who is one of the commissioners 
of excise, was, if iti his power, to procure me 
that division. If I were very sanguine, I 
might hope that some of my great patrons 
might procure me a treasury warrant for su- 
pervisor, burvcyor-general, &c. 

Thus secure of a livelihood, "to thee, sweet 
poetry, delightful maid," I would consecrate 
my future days. 

No. LXX. 
FMUtand, near Dumfries, 2d Feb. 1789. 


As I am conscious that wherever I am you do 
me the honour to interest yourself in my wel- 
fare, it gives me pleasure to inform you, that I 
am here at last, stationary in the serious busi- 
ness of life, and have now not only the retired 
leisure, but the hearty inclination, to attend to 
those great and important questions — what I 
am ? where I am ? and for what I am destined ? 
In that first concern, the conduct of the 
man, there was ever but one side on which I 
was habitually blameable, and there I have 
secured myself in the way pointed out by 
Nature and Nature's God. I was sensible 
that, to so helpless a creature as a poor poet, 
a wife and family were incumbrances, which 
a species of prudence would bid him shun ; 
but when the alternative was, being at eternal 
warfare with myself, on account of habitual 
follies, to give them no worse name, which no 
general example, no licentious wit, no sophis- 

tical infidelity would, to me, ever justify, I 
must have been a fool to have hesitated, and a 
madmiin to have made another choice. 

In the afiTair of a livelihood, I think myself 
tolerably secure : I have good hopes of my 
farm ; but should they fail, I have an excise 
commission, which on my simple petition, 
will, at any time, procure nie bread. There 
is a certain stigma affixed to the character of 
an excise officer, but I do not intend to borrow 
honour from any profession ; and though the 
salary he comparatively small, it is great to 
any thing that the first twenty-five years of my 
life taught me to expect. 

Thus, with a rational aim and method in 
life, you may easily guess, my reverend and 
much-honoured friend, that my characteristical 
trade is not forgotten. I am, if possible, more 
than ever an enthusiast to the muses. I am 
determined to study man and nature, and in 
that view incessantly ; and to try if the ripen- 
ing and corrections of years can enable me to 
produce something worth preserving. 

You will see in your book, which I beg 
your pardon for detaining so long, that I have 
been tuning my lyre on the banks of Nith. 
Some larger poetic plans that are floating in my 
imagination, or partly put in execution, I shall 
impart to you when I have the pleasure of 
meeting with you, which, if you are then in 
Edinburgh, I shall have about the beginning 
of March. 

That acquaintance, worthy sir, with which 
you were pleased to honour me, you must still 
allow me to challenge ; for with whatever un- 
concern i give up my transient connection 
with the merely great, I cannot lose the pa- 
tronizing notice of the learned and the good, 
without the bitterest regret. 

No. LXXI. 

siR, 2d January y 1789. 

If you have lately seen Mrs Dunlop, of Dun- 
lop, you have certainly heard of the author o( 
the verses which accompany this letter. He 
was a man highly respectable for every accom- 
plishment and virtue which adorns the charac- 
ter of a man or a Christian. To a great 
degree of literature, of taste, and poetic genius, 
was added an invincible modesty of temper, 
which prevented, in a great degree, his figuring 
in life, and confined the perfect knowledge of 
his character and talents to the small circle of 
his chosen friends. He was untimely taken 
from us, a few weeks ago, by an inflammatory 



fever, in the prime of life — beloved by all, 
who enjoyed his acquaintance, and lamented by 
all, who have any regard for virtue or genius. 
There is a woe pronounced in Scripture against 
the person whom all men speak well of; if 
ever that woe fell upon the head of mortal 
man, it fell upon him. He has left behind 
him a considerable number of compositions, 
chiefly poetical ; sufficient, I imagine, to 
muke a large octavo volume. In particular, 
two complete and regular tragedies, a farce of 
three acts, and some smaller poems on differ- 
ent subjects. It falls to my share, who have 
lived in the most intimate and uninterrupted 
friendship with him from my youth upwards, 
to transmit to you the verses he wrote on the 
publication of your incomparable poems. It 
is probable they were his last, as they were 
found in bis scrutoire, folded up with the form 
of a letter addressed to you, and I imagine, 
were onlv prevented from being sent by him- 
self, by that melancholy dispensation which we 
still bemoan. The verses themselves J will 
not pretend to criticise when writing to a 
petjtleman whom I consider as entirely quali- 
fied to judge of their merit. They are the 
only verses he seems to have attempted in the 
Scottish style ; and I hesitate not to say, in 
general, that they will bring no dishonour on 
the Scottish muse; — and allow me to add, that 
if it is your opinion they are not unworthy of 
the author, and will be no discredit to you, it 
is the inclination of Mr Mylne's friends that 
they should be immediately published in some 
periodical work, to give the world a specimen 
of what may be expected from his performances 
in the poetic line, which, perhaps, will be 
afterwards published for the advantage of his 

I must beg the favour of a letter from you, 
acknowledging the receipt of this, and to be 
allowed to subscribe myself with great regard. 
Sir, your most obedient servant, 

P. C . 


EUisland, ^ih March, 1789. 

Heee am I, my honoured friend, returned 
safe from the capital. To a man, who has a 
home, however humble or remote— if that 
home is like mine, the scene of domestic com- 
fort—the bustle of Edinburgh will soon be a 
business of sickening disgust. 

•* Vain pompaiidglory of this world, I hate you!'* 

When I must skulk into a corner, lest the 
rattling equipage of some gaping blockhead 
should mangle mc in the mire, I am tempted 

to exclaim — " What merits has he had, or 
what demerit have I had, in some state of pre- 
existence, that he is ushered into this state of 
being with the sceptre of rule, and the key of 
riches, in bis puny fist, and I am kicked mto 
the world, the sport of folly, or the victim of 
pride ?" I have read somewhere of a monarch 
(in Spain I think it was,) who was so out of 
humour with the Ptolemean system of astro- 
nomy, that he said, had he been of the Crea- 
tor's council, he could have saved him a great 
deal of labour and absurdity. I will not de- 
fertd this blasphemous speech ; but often, as I 
have glided with humble stealth through the 
4)omp of Prince's Street, it has suggested itself 
to me, as an improvement on the present 
human figure, that a man, in proportion to his 
own conceit of his consequence in the world, 
could have pushed out the longitude of his 
common size, as a snail pushes out his horns, 
or as we draw out a perspective. This trifling 
alteration, not to mention the prodigious saring 
it would be in the tear and wear of the neck 
and limb-sinews of many of his Majesty's liege 
subjects in the way of tossing the head and 
tiptoe strutting, would evidently turn out a 
vast advantage, in enabling us at once to adjust 
the ceremonials in making a bow, or making 
way to a great man, and that too within a 
second of the precise spherical angle of reve- 
rence, or an inch of the particular point of 
respectful distance, which the important crea- 
ture itself requires ; as a measuring -glance at 
its towering altitude would determine the affair 
like instinct. 

You are right, madam, in your idea of poor 
Mylne's poem, which he has addressed to me. 
The piece has a good deal of merit, but it has 
one great fault— it is, by far, too long. Be- 
sides, my success has encouraged such a shoal 
of ill-spawned monsters to crawl into public 
notice, under the title of Scottish Poets, that 
the very term of Scottish Poetry borders on 

the burlesque. When I write to Mr C , 

I shall advise him rather to try one of his de- 
ceased friend's English pieces. I am prodigi- 
ously hurried with ray own matters, else 1 
would have requested a perusal of all Mylne's 
poetic performances ; and would have offered 
his friends my assistance in either selecting or 
correcting what would be proper for the press. 
What it is that occupies me so much, and 
perhaps a little oppresses my present spirits, 
shall fill up a paragraph in some future letter. 
In the meantime allow me to close this epistle 
with a few lines done by a friend of mine . . 
. . . I give you them, that as you have seen 
the original, you may guess whether one or 
two alterations I have ventured to make in 
them, be any real improvement. 

Like (he fair plant that from our touch withdraws, 
Shrink mildly fearful even from applause. 
Be ail a mother's fondest hope can dream. 

And all you are, my charming , seem. 

Straight as the fox-glove, ere her bells discloso. 
Mild as the maiden-blushing hawthorn blows, 



Fair as the fairest of each lorely kind, 
Your form shall be the image of your mind ; 
Your manners shall so true your soul express, 
That all shall long to know the worth they guess ; 
Coiigenial hearts shall greet with kindred love, 
Ana even sick'ning envy must approve. • 


REVEaEND SIR, 1789. 

I DO not recollect that I have ever felt a 
severer pang of shame, than on looking at the 
date of your obliging letter, which accompanied 
Mr Mylne's poem. 

merous family:— not in pity to that family, 
but in justice to what his friends think the 
poetic merits of the deceased ; and to secure, 
in the most effectual manner, to those tender 
connexions, whose right it is, the pecuniary 
reward of those merits. 

I am much to blame : the honour Mr Mylne 
has done me, greatly enhanced in its value by 
the endearing, though melancholy circumstance, 
of its being the last production of his muse, 
deserved a better return. 

I have, as you hint, thought of sending a 
copy of the poem to some periodical publica. 
tion; but, on second thoughts, I am afraid 
that, in the present case, it would be an im- 
proper step. My success, perhaps as much 
accidental as merited, has brought an inunda- 
tion of nonsense under the name of Scottish 
Eoetry. Subscription -bills for Scottish poems 
ave so dunned, and daily do dun the public, 
that the very name is in danger of contempt. 
For these reasons, if publishing any of Mr M.'s 
poems in a magazine, &c. be at all prudent, in 
my opinion it certainly should not be a Scottish 
I)oem. The profits of the labours of a man 
of genius, are, I hope, as honourable as any 
profits whatever; and Mr Mylne*8 relations 
are most justly entitled to that honest harvest, 
which fate has denied himself to reap. But 
let the friends of Mr Mylne's fame (among 
whom I crave the honour of ranking myselQ, 
always keep in eye his respectability as a man 
and as a poet, and take no measure that, be- 
fore the worid knows any thing about him, 
would risk his name and character being 
classed with the fools of the times. 

I have, sir, some experience of publishing ; 
and the way in which I would proceed with 
Mr Mylne's poems, is this :— I would publish, 
m two or three English and Scottish public 
papers, any one of his English poems which 
should, by private judges, be thought the most 
excellent, and mention it at the same time, as 
one of the productions of a Lothian farmer, 
of respectable character, lately deceased, whose 
poems his friends had it in Idea to publish, 
soon, by subscription, for the sake of his nu- 



SIR, EUisland, 23d March, 1789. 

The gentleman who will deliver you this is a 
Mr Nielson, a worthy clergyman in my neigh- 
bourhood, and a very particular acquaintance 
of mine. As I have troubled him with this 
packet, I must turn him over to your goodness, 
to recompense him for it in a way in which be 
much needs your assistance, and where you 
can effectually serve him : — Mr Nielson is on 
his way for France, to wait on his Grace of 
Queensbeny, on some little business of a good 
deal of importance to him, and be wishes for 
your instructions respecting the most eligible 
mode of travelling, &c. for him, when he has 
crossed the Channel. I should not have 
dared to take this liberty with you, but that I 
am told, by those who have the honour of your 
personal acquaintance, that to be a poor honest 
Scotchman is a letter of recommendation to 
you, and that to have it in your power to serve 
such a character, gives you much pleasure. 

♦ These beautiful lines, we have reason to believe, 
nre the production of the lady to whom this letter is 

The enclosed ode is a compliment to the 

memory of the late Mrs , of . 

You probably knew her personally, an honour 
of which I cannot boast ; but I spent my early 
years in her neighbourhood, and among hei 
servants and tenante. 1 know that she was 
detested with the most heartfelt cordiality. 
However, in the particular part of her conduct 
which roused my poetic wrath, she was much 
less blameable. In Jaimary last, on my road 
to Ayrshire. I bad put up at Bailie Wigham's 
in Sanquhar, the only tolerable inn in the 
place. The frost was keen, and the grim 
evening and howling wind were ushering in a 
night of snow and drift. My horse and I were 
both much fatigued with the labours of the 
day, and just as my friend the Bailie and I 
were bidding defiance to the storm, over a 
smoking bowl, in wheels the funeral pageantry 

of the late great Mrs , and poor I am 

forced to brave all the horrors of the tempes- 
tuous night, and jade my horse, my young 
favourite horse, whom I had just christened 
Pegasus, twelve miles farther on, through the 
wildest muirs and hills of A)T8hire, to New 
Cumnock, the next inn. The powers of poesy 
and prose sink under me, when I wouM do- 
Kcribe what I felt. Suffice it to say, that when 
a good fire, at New Cumnock, had so far re. 



covered my frozen sinews, I sat dovMi and 
wrote the enclosed ode. 

J was at Edinburgh lately, and settled finally 
with Mr Creech ; and I must owii, that, at 
last, he has been amicable and fair with me. 

No. LXXV. 


EUisland, 2d April, 1789. 
I WILL make no excuses, my dear Bibliopolus, 
(God forgive me for murdering language!) 
that I have sat down to write you on this vile 

It is economy, sir ; it is that cardinal rirtue, 
prudence ; so I beg you will sit down, and 
either compose or borrow a panegyric. If 
you ace going to borrow, apply to 

to compose, or rather to compound, something 
very clever on my remarkable frugality ; that I 
wTite to one of my most esteemed friends on 
this wretched paper, which was originally in- 
tended for the venal fist of some drunken ex. 
ciseman, to take dirty notes in a miserable 
vault of an ale^cellar. 

O Frugality ! thou mother of ten thousand 
blessings — thou cook of fat beef and dainty 
greens !-^thou manufacturer of warm Shetland 
hose, and comfortable surtouts ! — thou old 
housewife, darning thy decayed stockings with 
thy ancient spectacles on thy aged nose ; — 
lead me, hand me in thy clutching palsied fist, 
up those heights, and through those thickets, 
liitherto inaccessible, and impervious to my 
anxious weary feet : — not those Parnassian 
craggs, bleak and barren, where the hungry 
worshippers of fame are, breathless, clamber- 
ing, hanging between heaven and hell ; but 
those glittering cliffs of Potosi, where the all- 
sufficient, all-powerful deity. Wealth, holds 
his immediate court of joys and pleasures ; 
where the sunny exposure of plenty, and the 
hot walls of profusion, produce those blissful 
fruits of luxury, exotics in this world, and na- 
tives of paradise !— Thou withered sybil, my 
sage conductress, usher me into the refulgent, 
adored presence !— The power, splendid and 
potent as he now is, was once the puling nurs- 
ling of thy faithful care, and tender arms ! 
Call me thy son, thy cousin, thy kinsman, or 
favourite, and adjure the god, by the scenes of 
his infant years, no longer to repulse me as a 
stranger, or an alien, but to favour me with 
his peculiar countenance and protection ! He 
daily bestows his greatest kindness on the un- 
deserving and the worthless — assure him, that 
I bring an^ple documents of meritorious de- 

merits ! Pledge yourself for me, that, foi the 
glorious cause of'^ Lucre, I will do any thing, 
be any thing— but the horse-leech of privht* 
oppression, or the vulture of public robbery f 

But to descend from heroics. 

I want a Shakspeare ; I v\ ant likewise an Eng 
lish dictionary — Johnson's, I suppose, is best. 
In these and all my prose commissions, the 
cheapest is always the best for me. There is 
a small debt of honour that I owe Mr Robert 
Cleghom, in Saughton Mills, my worthy 
friend, and your welUwisher. Please give 
him, and urge him to take it, the first time 
you see him, ten shillings worth of any thing 
you have to sell, and place it to mv account. 

The library scheme that I mentioned to you 
is already begun, under the direction of Captain 
Riddel. There is another in emulation of it 
going on at Closeburn, under the auspices of 
Mr Monteith, of Closeburn, which will be on 
a greater scale than ours. Capt. R. gave his 
infant society a great many of his old books, 
else 1 had written you on that subject ; but, 
one of these days, I shall trouble you with a 
commission for " The Monkknd Friendly 
Society" — a copy of TVie SpectatoVt Mirror^ 
and Lounger ,- Man of Feeling, Man of the 
World, Cruthrie's Geographical Grammar, with 
some religious pieces, will likely be our first 

When I grow richer, I will write to you on 
gilt post, to make amends for this sheet. At 
present^ every guinea has a five guinea errand 

My dear sir, 

Your faitliful, poor, but honest friend, 

R. B. 


EUidand, 2d April, 1789. 

I NO sooner hit on any poetic plan or fancy, 
but I wish to send it to you ; and if knowing 
and reading these give half the pleasure to you, 
that communicating them to you gives to me, 
I am satisfied. 


I have a poetic whim in my head, which I 
at present dedicate, or rather inscribe, to ll e 
Right Hon. C. J. Fox ; but how long that 
fancy may hold, I cannot say. A few of the 



first lines I have just rough-sketched, as fol- 
lows ; — 


How wisdom and folly meet, mix, and unite ; 

How virtue and vice blend their black and their 
white ; 

How genius, th' illustrious father of fiction, 

Confounds rule and law, reconciles contradic- 

1 sing: If these mortals, the critics, should 

1 care not, not I, let the critics go whisUe. 

But now for a patron, whose name and whose 

At once may illustrate and honour my story. 

Thou first of our orators, first of our wits ; 
Yet whose parts and acquirements scorn mere 

lucky hits ; 
With knowledge so vast, and witli judgment so 

No man with the half of *em e'er went far wrong ; 
With passions so potent, and fancies so bright. 
No man with the half of 'em e'er went quite 

right ; 
A sorry, poor misbegot son of the muses. 
For usmg thy name offers fifty excuses. 

Good L — d, what is man ! for as simple he 

Do but try to develope his hooks and his crooks ; 
With his depths and Jiis shallows, his good mid 

his evil. 
All in all he's a problem must puzzle the devil. 

On his one ruling passion Sir Pope hugely 

That like the old Hebrew walking-switch, eats 

up its neighbours : 
Mankind are his show-box— a friend, would you 

know him? 
Pull the string, ruling passion, the picture will 

show him. 
What pity, in rearing so beauteous a system, 
One trifling particular, truth, should have miss'd 

him ; 
For, spite of his fine theoretic positions, 
Mankmd is a science defies definitions. 

Some sort all our qualities each to its tribe. 
And think human nature they truly describe ; 
Have you found tlus, ort'otJier? tliere's more in 

the wind. 
As by one drunken fellow his comrades you'll 

But such is the fla*/, or the depth of the plan, 
In the make of that wonderful creature call'd 

No two virtues, whatever relation they claim. 
Nor even two dillerent shades of the same. 
Though like as was ever t>vin brother to brother, 
Possessing the one shall imply you've tlie other. 

No. LXXVIl. 

WY DEAR SIB, EUtslaudy ith May, 1789. 
Your duty free favour of the 26th April \ 
received two days ago : I will not say I peru- 
sed it with pleasure; that is the cold com- 
pliment of cereiriony; I perused it, sir, with 
delicious satisfaction — In short, it is such a 
letter, that not you, nor your friend, but the 
legislature, by express proviso in their postage 
laws, should frank. A letter informed with 
the soul of friendship is such an honour to 
human nature, that they should order it free 
ingress and egress to and from their bags, 
and mails, as an encouragement and mark ot 
distinction to super-eminent virtue. 

I have just put the last hand to a little poem 
which I think will be something to your taste. 
One morning lately as I was out pretty early 
in the fields sowing some grass seeds, I heard 
the burst of a shot from a neighbouring' plan- 
tation, and presently a poor little wounded 
hare came crippling by me. You will guess 
my indignation at the inhuman fellow who could 
shoot a bare at this season, when they all of 
them have young ones. Indeed there is some- 
thing in that business of destrojring, for our 
sport, individuals in the animal creation thut 
do not injure us materially, which I could 
ncrer reconcile to my ideas of virtue. 

On the 20th current I hope to have the 
honour of assuring you, in person, how sincere- 
ly I am, 

On Seeing a Fellow Wound a Hare with a 
Shot, AprU 1789. 

Inhuman man ! curse on thy barb'rous art. 
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye, 
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh, 

Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart. 

Go live, poor wanderer of the wood and field, 
The bitter little that of life remains; 
No more the thickening brakes or verdant 

To thee a home, or food, or pastime yield. 

Seek, mangled innocent, some wonted form ; 
That wonted form, alas ! thy dying bed, 
The sheltering rushes whistling o'er thy head, 

The cold earth with thy blood-stained bosom 

Perhaps a mother's anguish adds its woe ; 

The playful pair crowd fondly by thy side; 

Ah ! helpless nurslings, who will now provide 
That life a mother only can bestow? 

Oft as by winding Nith, I, musing, wait 
The sober eve, or hail the cheerful dawn, 
I'll miss thee sporting o'er the dewy lawn. 

And curse the ruthless wretch, and mourn thy 
hapless fate. 



liCt me know how you like my poem. I 
am doubtful whether it would not be an im- 
provement to keep out the last stanza but one 
kl together. 

C . is a glorious production of the author 

of man. You, he, and the noble Colonel of 
the C F are, to me, 

" Dear as the ruddy drops which warm my 

I have a good mind to make verses on you all, 
to the tune of " three good fellows ar/ont the 


[The poem. In tlie preceding letter, had also 
been sent by our hard to Dr Gregory for his 
criticism. The following is that gentleman's 


DEAR SIR, Edinburgh^ 2d Jutie, 1789. 

I TAKE the first leisure hour I could command, 
to thank you for your letter, and the copy of 
verses inclosed in it. As there is real poetic 
merit, I mean both fancy, and tenderness, and 
some happy expressions, in them, I think they 
well deserve that you should revise them care- 
fully and polish them to the utmost. This I 
am sure you can do if you please, for you have 
great command both of expression and of 
rhymes and you may judge from the two last 

{)ieces of Mrs Hunter's poetry, that I gave you, 
low much correctness and high polish enhance 
the value of such compositions. As you de- 
sire it, I shall, with great freedom, give you 
my most rigorous criticisms on your verses. I 
wish you would give me another edition of 
them, much amended, and I will send it to 
Mrs Hunter, who, I am sure, will have much 
pleasure in reading it. Pray, give me like- 
wise for myself, and her too, a copy (as much 
amended as you please) of the Water Fowl on 
JLoch Turit. 

The Wounded Hare is a pretty good sub- 
ject ; but the measure, or stanza, you have 
chosen for it, is not a good one ; it does not 
Jlow well ; and the rhyme of the fourth line is 
almost lost by its distance from the first ; and 
the two interposed, close rhvmes. If I were 
you, I would put it into a different stanza yet. 
Stanza 1. — The execrations in the first 
two lines are strong or coarse ; but they may 
pass. ** Murder-aiming" is a bad compound 
epithet, and not very intelligible, *' Blood- 
stained," in stanza iii. line 4, has the same 
fault: ^/ccrfm^jr bosom is infinitely better. You 
have accustomed yourself to such epithets, 
and have no notion how stiff and quaii<t they 
appear to others, and how incongruous with 
poetic fancy, and tender sentiments. Suppose 
Pcpc had written, " Why that blood-stained 

bosom gored," how would you have liked it ? 
Form is neither a poetic, nor a dignified, not a 
plain, common word : it is a mere sportsman's 
word ; unsuitable to pathetic or serious poetry. 

** Alangled" is a coarse word. •* Innocent,'* 
in this sense, is a nursery word ; but both may 

Stanza 4. — " Who will now provide that 
life a mother only can bestow," will not do at 
all : it is not grammar — it is not intelligible. 
Do you mean " provide for that life which the 
mother had bestowed and used to provide for ?" 

There was a ridiculous slip of the pen, 
*• Feeling" (I suppose) for " Fellow," in the 
title of your copy of verses ; but even fellow 
would be wrong : it is but a colloquial and 
vulgar word, unsuitable to your sentiments. 
" Shot" is improper too. — On seeing a person 
(or a sportsman) wound a hare ; it is needless 
to add with what weapon ; but if you think 
otherwise, you should say, voith a fowling-piece. 

Let me see you when you come to town, 
and I will show you some more of Mrs Hun- 
ter's poems. • 




^^h June, 1789. 

Though I am not without my fears respect- 
ing my fate at that grand, universal inquest of 
right and wrong, commonly called The Last 
Day^ yet I trust there is one sin, which that 
arch- vagabond, Satan, who, I understand, is to 
be king's evidence, cannot throw in my teeth 
— I mean ingratitude. There is a certain 
pretty large quantum of kindness for which I 
remain, and from inability, I fear, must remain 
your debtor ; but though unable to repay the 
debt, I assure you, sir, I shall ever warmly 
remember the obligation. It gives me the 
sincerest pleasure to hear by my old a^uaint~ 
ance, Mr Kennedy, that you are, in immortal 
Allan's language, " Hale and weel, and liv- 
ing ;" and that your charming family are well, 
and promising to be an amiable and respectable 
addition to the company of performers, whom 
the Great Manager of the Drama of Man is 
bringing into action for the succeeding age. 
With respect to my welfare, a subject in 

* It must he admitted, that this criticism is not 
more distinguished by its spood sense, than bj its free- 
dom from ceremony. It is impossible not to smile at 
the manner in which the poet may be suppoecd to have 
received it In fact it appears, ns the sailors say, to 
liave thrown him quite a-back. In a letter which he 

wrote soon aher, he saj-s, ** Dr O is a good ronu, 

but he crucifies me.*' — And again. " I believe in tlic 
iron justice of Dr G ; but lllie the devils, I be- 
lieve and tremble." However, he profited by the»o 
criticisms, as the reader will find, by comparing tiii^ 
first edition of the poem, with that published afier- 



which you once warmly and effectively inter- 
ested yourself, I am here in my old way, hold- 
ing my plough, marking the growth of my 
com, or the health of my dairy ; and at times 
sauntering by the delightful windings of the 
Nith, on the margin of which I have built my 
humble domicile, praying for seasonable wea- 
ther, or holding an intrigue with the Muses •, 
the only gipseys with whom I have now any 
intercourse. As I am entered into the holy 
state of matrimony, I trust my face is turned 
nomp\ete\y Zion ward ; and as it is a rule with 
nil honest fellows, to repeat no grievances, I 
hope that the little poetic licences of former 
days, will of course fall under the oblivious 
inrtuence of some good-natured statute of celes- 
tial proscription. In my family devotion, 
which, like a good presbyterian, I occasionally 
give to my household folks, I am extremely 
fond of the psalm, " Let not the errors of my 
youth," &c. and that other, " Lo, children are 
God's heritage," &c. in which last Mrs Burns, 
who, by the bye, has a glorious " wood-note 
wild" at either old song or psalmody, joins me 
with the pathos of HandePs Messiah. 

No. LXXX. 

DEAR MADAM, ElUsland^ 2\st JunCy 1789. 

VVn.L you take the effusions, the miserable 
effusions of low spirits, just as they flow from 
their bitter spring. I know not of any parti- 
cular cause for this worst of all my foes beset- 
ting me, but for some time my soul has been 
beclouded with a thickening atmosphere of 
evil imaginations and gloomy presages. 

Monday Evening. 

I have just heard give a sermon. 

He is a man famous for his benevolence, and 
I revere him ; but from such ideas of my 
Creator, good Lord deliver me ! Religion, 
my honoured friend, is surely a simple business, 
as it equally concerns the ignorant and the 
learned, the poor and the rich. That there is 
an incomprehensibly great Being, to whom I 
owe my existence, and that he must be inti- 
mately acquainted with the operations and 
progress of the intenial machinery, and conse- 
quent outward deportment of this creature 
which he has made ; these are, I think, self- 
evident propositions. That there is a real and 
eternal distinction between virtue and vice, and 
consequently that I am an accountable crea- 
ture ; that from the seeming nature of the 
human mind, as well as from the evident im- 
perfection, nay, positive injustice, in the admi- 
nistration of affairs, both in the natural and 

moral worlds, there must he a retributive sceiw 
of existence beyond the grave ; must, I think, 
be allowed by every one who will give himself 
a moment's retlection. I will go further, and 
affirm, that from the sublimity, excellence, 
and purity of his doctrine and precepts, un- 
paralleled by all the aggregated wisdom and 
learning of many preceding ages, though, to 
appearance^ he himself was the obscurest and 
most illiterate of our species; therefore, Jesus 
Christ was from God. 

Whatever mitigates the woes, or increases 
the happiness of others, this is my criterion of 
goodness ; and whatever injures society at 
large, or any individual in it, this is my mea- 
sure of iniquity. 

What think you, madam, of my creed ? I 
trust that I have said nothing that will lessen 
me in the eye of one, whose good opinion I 
value almost next to the approbation of my own 


DEAR SIR. Clifford Street, IQth June^ 1789. 
I THANK you for the different communications 
you have made me of your occasional produc- 
tions in manuscript, all of which have merit, 
and some of them merit of a different kind 
from what appears in the poems you have 
published. You ought carefully to preserve 
all your occasional productions, to correct and 
improve them at your leisure : and when you 
can select as manv of these as will make a 
volume, publish it either at Edinburgh or 
London, by subscription : On such an occa- 
sion, it may be in my power, as it is very much 
in my inclination, to be of service to you. 

If I were to offer an opinion, it would be, 
that in your future productions you should 
abandon the Scottish stanza and dialect, and 
adopt the measure and language of modem 
English poetry. 

The stanza which you use in imitation ot 
Christ Kirk on the Green, with the tiresome 
repetition of ♦• that day," is fatiguing to Eng- 
lish ears, and I should think not very a^ceable 
to Scottish. 

All the fine satire and humour of your Holt/ 
Fair is lost on the English ; yet, without more 
trouble to yourself, you could have conveyed 
the whole to them. The same is true of some 
of your other poems. In your Epistle to J, 

S , the stanzas from that beginning with 

this line, " This life, so far's I understand,'* 
to that which ends with, ** Short while it 
grieves," are easy, llowing, gaily philosophical, 
and of Horatian elegance—- >tbe language is 
English, \\ ith a /ew Scottish words, and some 



of those so harmonious, as to add to the 
beauty : for what poet would not prefer gloani' 
ing to twilight 

I imagine, that by carefully keeping, and 
occasionally polishing and correcting those 
verses, which the muse dictates, you will, 
t^nthin a year or two, have another volume as 
large as the first, ready for the press ; and this, 
without diverting you from eveiy proper atten- 
tion to the study and practice of husbandry, in 
which I understand you are very learned, and 
which I fancy you will choose to adhere to as 
a wife, while poetry amuses you from time to 
time as a mistress. The former, like a pru- 
dent wife, must not show ill humour, although 
you retain a sneaking kindness to this agreea- 
ble gipsey, and pay her occasional visits, which 
in no manner alienates your heart from your 
lawful spouse, but tends on the contrary to 
promote her interest. 

I desired Mr Cadell to write to Mr Creech 
to send you a copy of Zeluco. This perform- 
ance has bad great success here, but I shall be 
glad to have your opinion of it, because J know 
you are above saying what you do not think. 

I beg you will offer my best \vishes to my 
very good fiiend, Mrs Hamilton, who I under- 
stand is your neighbour. If she is as happy as 
I wish her, she is happy enough. Make my 
compliments also to Mrs Burns, and believe 
me to be, with sincere esteem. 

Dear Sir, yours, &c. 


siR, London-House y I2th Jufy, 1789. 

Though I have not the happiness of being 
personally acquainted with you, yet amongst 
the number of those who have read and ad- 
mired your publications, may I be permitted to 
trouble you with this. You must know, sir, 
I am somewhat in love with the Muses, though 
1 cannot boast of any favours they have deigned 
to confer upon me as yet ; my situation in life 
has been very much against me as to that. I 
have spent some years in and about Ecclefechan 
(where my parents reside), in the station of a 
servant, and am now come to Loudon- House, 

at present possessed by Mrs H : she is 

daughter to Mrs Dunlop, of Dunlop, whom I 
understand you are particularly acquainted 
with. As 1 had the pleasure of perusing your 
poems, I felt a partiality for the author, which 
I should not have experienced had you been in 
more dignified station. I WTote a few verses 
of address to you, which I did not then think 
of ever presenting : but as fortune seems to 
have favoured me in this, by bringing me into 
a family by whom you are well known and 
much esteemed, and where perhaps I may 
have an opportunity of seeing you ; I shall, in 

hopes of your future friendship, take the liberty 
to transcribe them. 

Fair fa* the honest rus ic swain, 
The piide o' a' our Scottish plain : 
Thou gi'es us joy to hear thy strain, 

And notes sae sweet : 
Old Ramsay's shade revived again 

In thee we greet. 

Loved Thalia, tliat delightfu' muse, 
Seem'd lan^ shut up as a recluse ; 
To all she did her aid refuse, 

iSince Allan's day: 
'Till Bums arose, then did she chuse 

To grace his lay. 

To hear thy sang all ranks desire, 
Sae weel you strike the dormant lyre; 
Apollo with poetic fire 

Ihy breast does warm ; 
And critics silently admire 

Thy art to charm. 

Cffisar and Luath weel can speak, 
'Tis pity e'er their gabs should steek. 
But into human nature keek. 

And knots unravel: 
To hear their lectures once a- week. 

Nine miles I'd travel. 

Thy dedication to G. H. 

An unco bonnie hamespun speech, 

Wi' winsome glee the heart can teach 

A better lesson, 
Than servile bards, who fawii and fleech 

Like beggar's mcsson. 

When slighted love becomes your theme, 
And women's faithless vows you blame; 
With so much pathos you exclaim, 

Iixyour lament ; 
But glanced by the most frigid dame. 

She would relent. 

The daisy too ye sing wi' skill ; 
And weel ye praise the whisky gill ; 
In vain 1 blunt my feckless quill, 

Your fame to raise ; 
While echo sounds from ilka hill. 

To Burns's praise. 

Did Addison or Pope but hear, 

Or Sam, that critic most severe, 

A ploughboy sinff with throat sae clear, 

Tliey in a rage. 
Their works would a' in pieces tear. 

And curse your page. 

Sure Milton's eloquence were faint. 
The beauties of your verse to paiut. 
My rude un polish 'd strokes but taint 

Their brilliancy ; 
Th' attempt would doubtless vex a saint, 
And weel may me. 

The task 111 drop with heart sincere. 
To heaven present my humble pray'r^ 
That all the blessings mortals snare. 
May be by turns. 



IMspensed by an indulgent rare 
To Robert Bums. 

Sir, I hope you will pardon my boldness in 
this ; my hand trembles while I write to yon, 
conscious of my unworthitiess of what I wouhl 
most carne^tly solicit, viz. your favour and 
friendship ; yet hoping you will show yourself 
possessed ot as much generosity and good- 
nature as will prevent your exposing what may 
justly be found liable to censure in this mea- 
sure,' I shall take the liberty to subscribe my- 
sel f, 

Your most obedient humble servant, 

J . 

P. S. — If you would condescend to honour 
me witii a few lines from your hand, I would 
take it as a particular favour, and direct to me 
at Loudon- House, near Galslock, 



MY DEAR SIR, Lojidoriy 5th Augusty 1789. 
Excuse me when I say, that the uncommon 
abilities which you possess, must render your 
correspondence very acceptable to any one. I 
can assure you, I am particularly proud of your 
partiality, and shall endeavour, by every me- 
thod in my power, to merit a continuance of 
your politeness. 

When you can spare a few moments I should 
De proud of a letter from you, directed for me, 
Gerrard Street, Soho. 

I cannot express my happiness sufficiently 
at the instance of your attachment to my late 
inestimable friend, Bob Fergusson, who was 
particularly intimate with myself and relations. • 
While I recollect with pleasure his extraordi- 
nary talents, and many amiable qualities, it 
affords me the greatest consolation, that I am 
honoured with the correspondence of his suc- 
cessor in national simplicity and genius. That 
Mr Burns has refined in the art of poetry, 
must readily be admitted ; but notwithstanding 
many favourable representations, I am yet to 
learn that he inherits his convivial powers. 

There was smh a richness of conversation, 
such a plenitude of fancy and attraction in 
liim, that when I call the happy period of our 
intercourse to my memory, 1 feel myself in a 
state of delirium. I was then younger than 

• Thu erection of a innnument tu him. 

him by eight or ten years ; but his manner 
was so felicitous, that he enraptured every 
person around him, and infused into the hearts 
of the young and old, the spirit and animation 
which operated on his own mind. 

I am, dear Sir, yours, &c. 


IN answi:r to the foregoing. 


Thk hurry of a farmer in this particular sea- 
son, and the indolence of a poet at all times 
and seasons, will, I hope, plead my excuse for 
neglecting so long to answer your obliging 
letter of the fifth of August. 

That you have done well in quitting your 

laborious concern in I do not doubt ; 

the weighty reasons you mention were, I hope, 
very, and deservedly indeed, weighty ones, and 
your health is a matter of the last importance} 
but whether the remaining proprietors of the 
paper have also done well, is what I much 

doubt. The so far as I was a 

reader, exhibited such a brilliancy of point, 
such \in elegance of paragraph, and such a 
variety of intelligence, that I can hardly con- 
ceive it possible to continue a daily paper in 
the same degree of excellence ; but if there 
was a man who had abilities equal to the task, 
that man's assistance the proprietors have lost. 

When I received your letter I vras transcrib 

ing, for , my letter to the Magistrates 

of the Canongate, Edinburgh, begging their 
permission to place a tomb-stone over poor 
Fergusson, and their edict in consequence of 
my petition ; but now I shall send them to 

Poor Fergusson ! If 

there be a life beyond the grave, w hich I trust 
there is ; and if there be a good God presiding 
over all nature, which I am sure there is ; thou 
art now enjoying existence in a glorious w^orld, 
will re worth of the heart alone is distinction 
in the man ; where riches, d prived of all their 
pleasure-purchasing powers, return to their 
native sordid matter: where titles and honours 
are the disregarded reveries of an idle dream \ 
and where that heavy virtue, which is the ne- 
gative con>equence of steady dulness, and 
those thoughtless, though often destructive 
follies, which arc the unavoidable aberrations 
of frail human nature, will be thrown into 
equal oblivion as if they had never been ! 

Adieu, my dear Sir ! so soon as your present 
views and schemes are concentred in an aim, 
I shall be glad be hear from you ; as your 
welfare and happiness is by no means a subject 
indifferent to 

Yours, &C. 




EUislandy 6M September ^ 1789. 


I HAVE mentioned in my last, my appointment 
to the excise, and the birth of little Frank ; 
who, by the bye, I trust will be no discredit 
to the honourable name of Wallace, as he has 
a fine manly countenance, and a figure that 
might do credit to a little fellow two months 
older ; and likewise an excellent good temper, 
though when he pleases he has a pipe, only not 
quite so loud as the horn that his immortal 
namesake blew as a signal to take out the pin 
of Stirling bridge. 

I had some time ago an epistle, part poetic, 
and part prosaic, from your poetess, Mrs J. 
h ; a very ingenious, but modest compo- 
sition. I should have WTitten her as she re- 
quested, but for the hurry of this new business. 
I have beard of her and her compositions in 
this country : and I am happy to add, always 
to the honour of her character. The fact is, 
1 know not well how to write to her ; I should 
sit down to a sheet of paper that I knew not 
bow to stain. I am no daub at fine drawn 
letter-writing ; and except when prompted by 
friendship or gratitude, or which happens ex- 
tremely rarely, inspired by the Muse (I know 
not her name) that presides over epistolary 
writing, I sit down, when necessitated to write, 
as I would sit down to beat hemp. 

Some parts of your letter of the 20th August 
struck me with melancholy concern for the 
state of your mind at present. 

Would I could write you a letter of comfort/ 
I would sit down to it with as much pleasure, 
as I would to write an epic poem of my own 
composition, that should equal the Iliad. Re- 
ligion, my dear friend, is the true comfort ! 
A strong persuasion in a future state of exis- 
tence ; a proposition so obviously probable, 
that, setting revelation aside, every nation and 
people, so far as investigation has reached, for 
at least near four thousand years, have, in some 
mode or other, firmly believed it. In vain 
would we reason and pretend to doubt. I 
have myself done so to a very daring pitch ; 
but when I reflected, that I was opposing the 
most ardent wishes, and the most darling hopes 
of good men, and fiying in the face of all hu- 
man belief, in all ages, I was shocked at my 
own conduct. 

I know not whether I have ever sent you 
the following lines, or if you have ever seen 
them ; but it is one of my favourite quotations, 
which I keep constantly by me in my progress 
through life, in the language of the book of 

" Against the day of batile and of war."— 
spoken of religion. 

"'Tis thi^i my friend, that streaks our morning 

'Tis this that gilds the horror of our night, 
When wealth forsakes us, ajid when friends 

are few ; 
When friends are faithless, or when foes pursue ; 
'Tis this Jhat wards the blow, or stills the smait. 
Disarms aflfliclion or repels his dart: 
Within the breast bids purest raptures rise. 
Bids smiling tonscience spread her cloudless 


I have been very busy with Zeluco, The 
Doctor is 80 obliging as to request my opinion 
of it ; and I have been revolving in my mind 
some kind of criticisms on novel writing, but 
it is a depth beyond my research. I shall 
however digest my thoughts on the subject as 
well as I can. Zeluco is a most sterling per- 

Farewell ! A Dicu, le ban Dieu^ je vous 
commende ! 


Edinburghy 2Uh August, 1789. 

Dear Burks, thou brother of my heart, 
Both for thy virtues and thy art : 
If art it may be call'd in thee. 
Which nature's bounty, large and free. 
With pleasure on thy breast diffuses, 
And warms thy soul with all the Muses. 
Whether to laugh witli easy grace. 
Thy numbers move the sage's face, 
Or bid the softer passions rise, 
And ruthless souls with grief surprise, 
'Tis Nature's voice distinctly felt. 
Through thee her organ, thus to melt. 

Most anxiously 1 wish to know, 
With thee of late how matters go ; 
How keeps thy much-loved Jean her health ? 
What promises thy farm of wealth ? 
Whether the Muse persists to smile, 
And all thy anxious cares beguile? 
Whether bright fancy keeps alive? 
And how thy darling infants thrive f 

For me, with grief and sickness spent. 
Since 1 my journey homeward bent. 
Spirits depressed no more I mourn. 
But vigour, life, and health return. 
No more to gloomy thoughts a prey, 
I sleep all night, and live all day; 
By turns my book and friend enjoy. 
And thus my circling hours employ ; 
Happy while yet these hours remam, 
If Bums could join the cheerful train. 
With wonted zeal, sincere and fervent. 
Salute once more his humble servant, 





EUislandy 2Ut October, 1789. 

Wow, but your letter made me vauntie ! 
And are ye hale, and weel, and cantie ? 
I keri'd it stiil your wee bit jauntie, 

Wad bring ye to : 
Lord send you aye as weel's I want ye, 

And then ye'U do. 

Ihe ilUhief blaw the Heron south ! 
And never drink be near his drouth ! 
He tauld mysel by word o' moutli, 

He'd tak my letter ; 
1 lippen'd to the chiel in trouth, 

And bade nae better. 

Hut aiblins honest Master Heron, 
Had at the time some dainty fair one, 
To ware his theologlc care on. 

And holy study ; 
And tired o' sauls to waste his lear on. 

E'en tried the body. ♦ 

Hut what d'ye think, my trusty fier, 
I'm turn'd a gauger — Peace be here 1 
Parnassian queens, 1 fear, I fear, 

Ye'll now disdain me, 
And then my fifty pounds a-year 

Will little gain me. 

Ye glaiket, gleesome, dainty damies, 
Wha by Castalia's wimplin strcamies, 
Lowp, sing, and lave your pretty limbics, 

Ye ken, ye ken, 
That Strang necessity supreme is 

^Mang sons o' men. 

I hae a wifd and twa wee laddies, 

They maun hae brose and brats o' daddies : 

Ye ken yoursel my heart right proud is, 

I needna vaunt. 
But 111 sned besoms— thraw saugh woodies. 

Before they want. 

Lord help me thro' this warld o' care ! 
I'm weaiy sick o't late and air ! 
Not but 1 hae a richer share 

Tlian mony ithers ; 
But why ^ould ae man better fare, 

And a' men brithers ! 

Come Firm Resolve take thou the van, 
Thou stalk o* carl-hemp in man ! 
And let us mind, faint heart ne'er wan 

A lady fair: 
Wha does the utmost that he can, 

Will whyles do main 

But to conclude my silly rhyme, 
(I'm scant o' verse, and scant o' time,) 
To make a happy fire-side clime 

To weans and wife, 
That's the true patlios and sublime 

Of human life. 

My compliments to sister Beckle; 
And eke the same to honest Lucky;— 
1 wat she is a dainty chuckle. 

As e'er tread clay ! 
And gratefully my gude auld cockie, 

l»m yours for aye. 


* Mr Horon, author of the Hlatory of Scotland, 
lately published; and among various other works, of 
a respectable life of our poet himself. 


SIR, 9th December, 1789 

I HAVE a good while had a wish to trouble you 
with a letter, and had certainly done it long ere 
now — but for a humiliating something that 
throws cold water on the resolution, as if one 
should say, " You have found Mr Graham a 
very powerful and kind friend indeed, and that 
interest he is so kindly taking in 3rdur con- 
cerns, you ought by every thing in yout power 
to keep . alive and cherish." N.q.w though, 
since God has thought proper^ t^' make one 
powerful and another helpless, .'the connexion 
ofobligerand obliged is all fiur; and though 
my being under your patronage is to me highly 
honourable, yet, sir, allow me to flatter myselt^ 
that, as a poet and an honest man, you first 
interested yourself in my welfare, and princi- 
pally as such still, you permit me to approach 

I have found the excise business go on a 
great deal smoother with me than I expected ; 
owing a good deal to the generous friendship 
of Mr Mitchell, my collector, and the kind 
assistance of Mr Findlater, my supervisor. I 
dare to be honest, and I fear no laboiu*. Nor 
do I find my hurried life greatly inimical to 
my correspondence with the Muses. Their 
visits to me, indeed, and I believe to most of 
their acquaintance, like the visits of good an- 
gels, are short and far between ; but I meet 
them now and then as I jog through the hills 
of Nithsdale, just as I used to do on the banks 
of Ayr. I take the liberty to inclose you a 
few bagatelles, all of tbem the productions of 
my leisure thoughts in my excise rides. 

If you know or have ever seen Giptatn 
Grose, the antiquarian, you will enter into any 
humour that is m the verses on him. Perhaps 
you have seen them before, as I sent them to 
a London newspaper. Though I dare say 
you have none of the solemn-league-and-cove- 
nant fire, which shone so conspicuous in Lord 
George Gordon, and the Kilmarnock weavers, 
yet J think you must have heard of Dr M**Gill, 
one of the clergymen of Ayr, and his heretical 
book. God help, him poor man I Though he 
is one of the worthiest, as well as one of the 
ablest of the whole priesthood of the Kirk of 
Scotland, in every sense of that ambiguous 
term, yet the poor Doctor and his numerous 
family are in imminent danger of being thrown 
out to the mercy of the winter-winds. The 
inclosed ballad on that business is, I confess. 



too local, but I laughed myself at some con- 
ceits in it, thougfa I am convinced in my con- 
science, that there are a good many heavy 
stanzas in it too. 

The election ballad, as you will see, alludes 
to the present canvass in our string of boroughs. 
I do not believe there will be such a hard run 
match in the whole general election. • 

I am too little a man to have any political 
attachments ; I am deeply indebted to, and 
have the warmest veneration for, individuals 
of both parties ; but a man who has it in his 
power to be the father of a country, and who 

» is a character that one cannot 

speak of with patience. 

Sir J. J. does •' what man can do," but yet 
I doubt his fate. 


Ellisland, ISih JDecemher, 1789. 

Many thanks, dear madam, for your sheetful 
of rhymes. Though at present I am below 
the veriest prose, yet from you every thing 
pleases. J am groaning under the miseries of 
a diseased nervous system ; a system, the state 
of which is most conducive to our happiness — 
or the most productive of our misery. For 
now near three weeks I have been so ill with 
a nervous head-ache, that I have been obliged 
to give up, for a time, my excise books, being 
scarce able to lift my head, much less to ride 
once a-week over ten muir parishes. What is 
Man ! To-day, in the luxuriance of health, 
exulting in the enjoyment of existence ; in a 
few days, perhaps in a few hours, loaded 
with conscious painful being, counting the 
tardy pace of the lingering moments by the 
repercussions of anguish, and refusing or de- 
nied a comforter. Day follows night, and 
night comes after day, only to curse him with 
life which gives him no pleasure ; and yet the 
awful, dark termination of that life, is a some- 
thing at which he recoils. 

** Tell us, ye dead ; ^^•ill none of you in pily 

Disclose the secret — 

fVhat 'tis t/ou are, aiid we must >hortly he! 

^— ^— — — ^— 'tis no matter : 

A little time will make us leam'd as you are." 

Can it be possible, that when I resign this 
frail, feverish being, I shall still find myself in 

* This nlludoa to tV.o rontrst for tlio boroiig^li of 
Dumfries, hetwocn the Duke of QmHnsbcrry'o interest 
aiid tliat of Sir Jmnes Johnstone. 

conscious existence ! When the last gasp of 
agony has announced, that I am no more to 
those that knew me, and the few who loved 
me : when the cold, stiffened, unconscious, 
ghastly corse is resigned into the earth, to be 
the prey of unsightly reptiles, and to become 
in time a trodden clod, shall I yet be warm in 
life, seeinp and seen, enjoying and enjoyed ? 
Ye venerable sages, and holy flamens, is there 
probability in your conjectures, truth in your 
stories of another world beyond death : or are 
they all alike, baseless visions, and fabricated 
fables ? If there is another life, it must be 
only for the just, the benevolent, the amiable, 
and the humane ; what a llattering idea, then, 
is the world to come? Would to Grod I as 
firmly believed it, as I ardently wish it ! There 
I should meet an aged parent, now at rest 
from the many bufifetings of an evil world, 
apainst which he so long and so bravely strug- 
gled. Tliere should I meet the friend, the 
disinterested friend of my early life j the man 
who rejoiced to see me, because he loved me 

and could serve me. Muir I thy weaknesses 

were the aberrations of human nature, but 
thy heart glowed with every thing generous, 
manly, and noble; and if ever emanation from 
the All -good Being animated a human form, 
it was thine ! — There should I with speechless 
agony of rapture, again recognize my lost, my 
ever dear Mary ! whose bosom was fraught 
with truth, honour, constancy and love. 

My Mary, dear departed shade ! 

VVhere is tliy place of heavenly rest? 
iJeest thou thy lover lowly laid ? 

Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast? 

Jesus Christ, thou amiablest of characters 
I trust thou art no impostor, and that thy re- 
velatiori of blissful scenes of existence beyond 
death and the grave, is not one of the many 
impositions which time after time have been 
palmed on credulous mankind. I trust that in 
thee, " shall all the families of the earth be 
blessed," by being yet connected together in a 
better world, where every tie that bound heart 
to heart, in this state of existence, shall be, 
far beyond our present conceptions, more en- 

I am a good deal inclined to think with 
those who maintain, that what are called ner- 
vous affections are in fact 'diseases of the 
mind. I cannot reason, I cannot think ; and 
but to you J would not venture to write 
any thing above an order to a cobbler. You 
have felt too much of the ills of life not to 
sympathize with a diseased wretch, who is 
impaired more than half of anv faculties he 
possessed. Your goodness will excuse this 
distracted scrawl, which the writer dare scarce* 
ly read, and which he would throw into the 
fire, were he able to write any thing better, or 
indeed any thing at all. 

Rumour told me something of a son of 
yours who was returned from the East or 



West Indies. If you have gotten news of 
James or Anthony, it was cruel in you not to 
let me know ; as I promise you, on the since- 
rity of a man, who is weary of one world and 
anxious about another, that scarce any thing 
could give me so much pleasure as to hear of 
any good thing befalling my honoured friend. - 
If you have a minute's leisure, take up your 
pen in pity to le pauvre nuserabie 

R. B. 

No. XC. 


The following circumstance has, I believe, 
been omitted in the statistical account, trans- 
mitted to you, of the parish of Dunscore, in 
Nithsdale. I beg leave to send it to vou, be- 
cause it is new and may be useful. How far 
it is deserving of a place in your patriotic pub- 
lication, you are the best judge. 

To store the minds of the lower classes 
with useful knowledge, is certainly of very 
great importance, both to them as individuals, 
and to society at large. Giving them a turn 
for reading and reflection, is (giving them a 
source of innocent and laudable amusement ; 
and besides raises them to a more dignified 
degree in the scale of rationality. Impressed 
with this idea, a gentleman in this parish, 
Robert Riddel, Esq. of Glenriddel, set on foot 
a species of circulating library, on a plan so 
simple as to be practicable in any comer of the 
country ; and so useful, as to deserve the notice 
of every country gentleman, who thinks the 
improyement of that part of his own species, 
whom chance haa thrown into the humble 
walks of the peasant and the artisan, a matter 
worthy of his attention. 

Mr Riddel got a number of his own tenants, 
and farming neighboui'S, to form themselves 
into a society for the purpose of having a library 
among themselves. They entered into a legal 
engagement to abide by it for three years; 
with a saving clause or two, in case of removal 
to a distance, or of death. Each member, at 
his entry, paid five shillings, and at each of 
their meetings, which were held every fourth 
Saturday, sixpence more. With their entry- 
money, and the credit which they took on the 
faith of their future funds, they laid in a tole- 
rable stock of books at the commencement. 
What authors they were to purchase, was 
always decided by the majority. At every 
meeting, all the books, under certain fines and 
forfeitures, by way of penalty, were to be pro- 
duced ; and the members had their choice of 
the volumes in rotation. He whose name 
stood, for that night, first on the list, had his 
choice of what volume he pleased in the whole 
collection ; the second had his choice after the 
&rst ; the third after the second, and so on to 

the last. At next meeting, ha who had been 
first on the list at the preceding meeting, was 
last at this ; he who had been second was first : 
and so on through the whole three years. At 
the expiration of the engagement, the books 
were sold by auction, but only among the 
members themselves: and each man had his 
share of the common stock, in money or in 
books, as he chose to be a purchaser or not. 

At the brefddng up of this little society, 
which was formed under Mr Riddel's patron- 
age, what with benefactions of books from 
him, and what with their own purchases, they 
had collected together upwards of one hundred 
and fifty volumes. It will easily be guessed, 
that a good deal of trash would be bought. 
Among the books, however, of this little 
library, were Blair's SermonSt Robertson's His 
tory of Scotland, Hume's History of the SluartSt 
the Spectator, Idler, Adventurer, Mirror, 
Lounger, Observer, Man of Feeling, Man of the 
World, Chrysal, Don Quixote, Joseph An- 
drews, Sfc. A peasant who can read, and enjoy 
such books, is certainly a much superior being 
to his neighbour, who perhaps stalks beside 
his team, very little removed, except in shape, 
from the brute he drives. 

Wishing your patriotic exertions their so 
much merited success, I am. 


Your humble servant, 

No. XCI. 

EUithndt llth January, 1790. 


I MEAN to take advantage of the frank, though 
I have not in my present frame of mind much 
appetite for exertion in writing. My nerves 
are in a . . • . state. I feel that horrid 

* The above la extracted from the third volame of 
Sir John Sinclair's StaUatics, p. 506.~It was inclosed to 
Sir John by Mr Riddel himself in the following letter, 
also printed there. 

< Sir John, 

* I inclose yuu a letter, written by Mr Bums as an 
addition to the account of Dunscore parish. It contains 
an account of a small libri^y which he was so go«»d, (at 
my desire) as to set on foot, in ihe barony of Monkland, 
or Friar*8 Carse, in this parish. As its utilitv has been 
felt, particularly among the younger class or people, I 
think, that if a similar plan were established, iu the 
different parishes of Scotland, it would tend greatly to 
the speedy improrenient of the tenantry, trades people, 
and work people. Mr Burns was so good as to take 
the whole charge of this small concern. He was trea- 
surer, librarian, and censor to this little society, who 
will long have a grateful sense of his public spirit and 
exerUuns for their improvement nnd information. 

* I have the honour to be. Sir John, 
* Yours most smowely, 

To Sir John Sinclair, 
of Vtbtter, Bari, 



hypochondria pervading every atom of both 
body and soul. This farm has undone my 
enjoyment of myself. It is a ruinous affair 
on all hands. But let it go to . . . ! I'll 
fight it out and be off with it. 

We have gotten a set of very decent players 
here just now. I have seen them an evening 
or two. David Campbell, in Ayr, wrote to 
me by the manager of the company, a Mr 
Sutherlund, who is a man of apparent worth. 
On Nevv-year-day evening I gave him the fol- 
lowing prologue, which he spouted to his audi- 
ence with applause. 

No song nor dance I bring from yon great city, 
That queens it o'er our taste — the more's the pity : 
Though, by the bye, abroad why will you roam ? 
Good sense and taste are natives here at home ; 
But not for panegyric 1 appear, 
1 come to wish you all a good new year ! 
Old Fatlier Time deputes me here before ye. 
Not for to preach, but tell his simple story ; 
The sage grave ancient cough 'd, and bade me say, 
•' You're one year older this important day," 
If wiser too — he hinted some suggestion. 
But 'twould be rude, you know, to ask the ques- 
tion ; 
And with a would-be roguish leer and wink. 
He bade me on you press this one word — "think!" 

Ye sprightly j ouths, quite flush with hope and 

Who think to storm the %\orld by dint of merit, 
To you the dotard has a deal to say, 
In his sly, dry, sententious, proverb way ! 
He bids you mind, amid your thoughtless rattle, 
That the first blow is ever half the battle ; 
That though some by the skirt may try to snatch 

Yet by the forelock is the hold to catch him. 
That whether doing, suffering, or forbearing, 
You may do miracles by persevering. 

Last, though not least in love, ye youthful fair. 
Angelic forms, high Heaven's peculiar care ! 
To you old Bald- pate smooths his wrinkled brow. 
And humbly begs you'll mind the important — 

NOW ! 

To crown your happiness, he asks your leave. 
And offers, bliss to give and to receive. 

For our sincere, though haply weak endeavours. 
With grateful pride we own your many favours: 
And howsoe'er our tongues may ill reveal it, 
Believe our glowing bosoms truly feel it. 

I can no more,— If once I was clear of this 
. . . farm, I should respire more at ease. 

No. XCII. 


EUislandf 25th January, 1790. 
It has been owing to unremitting hurry of 

business that I have not written to }*ou, ma. 
dam, long ere now. My health is greatly 
better, and I now begin once more to share in 
satisfaction and enjoyment with the rest of my 

Many thanks, my much esteemed friend, for 
your kind letters ; but why will you make me 
run the risk of being contemptible and merce- 
nary in my own eyes ! When I pique myself 
on my independent spirit, I hope it is neither 
poetic licence, nor poetic rant ; and I am so 
flattered with the honour you have done me, 
in making me your compeer in friendship and 
friendly correspondence, that I cannot without 
pain, and a degree of mortification, be reminded 
of the real inequality between our situations. 

Most sincerely do I rejoice with you, dear 
madam, in the good news of Anthony. Not 
only your anxiety about his fate, but my own 
esteem for such a noble, warm-hearted, manly 
young fellow, in the little I had of his ac- 
quaintance, has interested me deeply in his 

Falconer, the unfortunate author of the 
Shipwreck, which you so much admire, is no 
more. After weathering the dreadful catas- 
trophe he so feelingly describes in his poem, 
and after weathering many hard gales of for- 
tune, he went to the bottom with the Aurora 
frigate ! I forget what part of Scotland had 
the honour of giving him birth, but he was 
the son of obscurity and misfortune.* He 
was one of those daring adventurous spirits, 
which Scotland beyond any other country is 
remarkable for producing. Little does the 
fond mother think, as she hangs delighted over 
the sweet little leech at her bosom, where the 
poor fellow may hereafter wander, and what 
may be his fate. I remember a stanza in an 
old Scottish ballad, which, notwithstanding its 
rude simplicity, speaks feelingly to the heart : — 

*' Little did my mother think. 

That day she cradled me. 
What land 1 was to travel in, 

Or Avhat death 1 should die." 

* Falconer was in early life a sea-boy, to use a word 
of Shakspeare, on board a man-or.war, in which capa. 
city he attracted the notice uf Campbell, the author of 
the satire on Dr Johnson, entitled Lexiphanet, then 
purser of the ship. Campbell took him rs his nervant, 
and delighted in flfiving him instruction ; and when 
Falconer afterwards ac<iuired celebrity, boa-ted of him 
as his scholar. The editor had this information from ,a 
surgeon of a man-of.war, in n77, who knew both 
Campbell and Falconer, and who himself peri&hed soon 
after by shipwreck, on the coast of America. 

Though the death of Falconer happened so lately as 
1770 or 1771, yet in the biography prefixed by Dr An- 
dersou to his works, in the complete edition of the 
Poets of Great Britatn. it is said, ** Of the family, birth- 
place, and education of William Falconer, there are no 
memorials ^ On the authority already given, it may be 
mentioned, that he was a native of one of the towns on 
the coast of Fife, and that hit parents, who had suffered 
some misfortanes. removed to one of the sea-ports uf 
England, where they both died, soon after, of an epide. 
mic fever, leaving poor Falconer, then a boy, forlorn 
and destitute. In conseooence of which he entered on 
board a man-of-war. These latt circumstances are 
however less certain. 



Old Scottish songs are, ]^ou know, a favour- 
ite study and pursuit of mine ; and now I am 
on that subject, allow me to give you two 
stanzas of another old simple ballad, which I 
am sure will please you. The catastrophe of 
the piece is a poor ruined female, lao^euting 
her fate. She concludes with this pathetic 
wish : 

** O that my father had ne'er on me smiled ; 
O that my mother had ne'er to me sung ! 
O that my cradle had never been rock'd ; 
But tliat 1 had died when 1 was young ! 

that tlic grave it were my b»^d ; 

My blankets were my winding sheet; 
The clocks and the worms my bedfellows a' ; 
And O sac sound as I should sleep !" 

I do not remember in all my reading to have 
met with any thing more truly the language of 
misery, than the exclamation in the last line. 
Misery is like love; to speak its language 
tnily, the author must have felt it. 

I am every day expecting the doctor to give 
your little god-son* the small-pox. They are 
rife in the country, and I tremble for his fate. 
By the wav, I cannot help congratulating you 
on his looks and spirit. Every person who 
sees him, acknowledges him to be the finest, 
handsomest child he has ever seen. I am 
myself delighted with the manly swell of his 
little chest, and a certain miniature dignity in 
the carriage of his head, and glance of his fine 
black eye, which promise the undaunted gal- 
lantry of an independent mind. 

1 thought to have sent you some rhymes, 
but time forbids. 1 promise you poetry until 
you are tired of it, next time I have the hon- 
our of assuring you how truly I am, &c. 


28M January, 1790. 

In some instances it is reckoned unpardonable 
to quote any one's own words ; but the value 
I have for your friendship, nothing can more 
truly or more elegantly express, than 

" Time but the impression stronger makes. 
As streams tlieir channels deeper wear." 

Having written to you twice without having 
heard from you, I am apt to think my letters 
have miscarried. My conjecture is ordy framed 
upon the chapter of accidents turning up 
against me, as it too often does, in the trivial, 
and I may with truth add, the more important 
affairs of life ; but I shall continue occasionally 
to inform you what is going on among the 
circle of your friends in these parts. In these 

• The bard's second son, Francis. 

days of merriment, I have frequently heard 
your name proclaimed at the jovial board- 
under the roof of our hospitable friend at 
Stenhouse Mills, there were no 

" Lingering moments number'd with care." 

I saw your Address to the New-year in the 
Dumfries Journal. Of your productions I 
shall say nothing, but my acquaintances allege 
that when your name is mentioned, which 
every man of celebrity must know often hap- 
pens, I am the champion, the Mendoza, 
against all snarling critics, and narrow minded 
reptiles, of whom a few on this planet do crawL 

With best compliments to your wife, and 
her black-eyed sister, I remain, yours, &c. 

No. XCIV. 

Eiiislandf I3th February, 1790. 

I BEG your pardon, my dear and much valued 
friend, for writing to you on this very un- 
fashionable, unsightly sheet — 

" My poverty but not my will consents.** 

But to make amends^ since of modish post 
I have none, except one poor widowed half 
sheet of gilt, which lies in my drawer among 
my plebeian foolscap pages, like the widow of 
a man of fashion, whom that unpolite scoun- 
drel. Necessity, has driven from Burgundy and 
Pine-apple, to a dish of Bohea, with the scan- 
dal-bearing help-mate of a village priest ; or a 
glass of whisky-toddy, with the ruby- nosed 
yoke- fellow of a foot-padding exciseman — I 
make a vow to inclose this sheet-full of epis- 
tolary fragments in that my only scrap of gilt- 

I am indeed your unworthy debtor for three 
friendly letters. 1 ought to have written to 
you long ere now, but it is a literal fact, I have 
scarcely a spare moment. It is not that I 
will not write to you; Miss Burnet is not 
more dear to her guardian angel, nor his grace 

the Duke of to the powers of , 

than my friend Cunningham to me. It is not 
that I cannot write to you ; should you doubt 
it, take the following fragment which was in- 
tended for you some time ago, and be convinced 
that I can antithesize sentiment, and circumvo- 
lute periods, as well as any coiner of phrase in 
the regions of philology. 

MY DEAR CUNNINGHAM, December, 1789. 

Where are you ? And what are you doing ? 
Can you be that son of levity, who takes up a 
friendship as he takes up a fashion; or are 
you, like some other of the worthiest fellows 



in the world, the victim of iridolence, laden 
with fetters of ever-increasing weight. 

What strange beings we are ! Since we 
have a portion of conscious existence, equally 
capable of enjoying pleasure, happiness, and 
rapture, or of suffering pain, wretchedness, 
and misery, it is surely worthy of an inquiry, 
whether there be not such a thing as a science 
of life ; whether method, economy, and fertility 
of expedients be not applicable to enjoyment ; 
and whether there be not a want of dexterity 
in pleasure, which renders our little scantling 
of happiness still less ; and a profuseness, an 
intoxication in bliss which leads to satiety, 
disgust, and self-abhorrence. There is not a 
doubt but that health, talents, character, decent 
competency, respectable friends, are real sub- 
stantial blessings ; and yet do we not daily see 
those who enjoy many or ail of these good 
things, contrive, notwithstanding, to be as un- 
happy as others to whose lot few of them have 
fallen. I believe one great source of this 
mistake or misconduct is owing to a certain 
stimulus, with us called ambition, which goads 
us up the hill of life, not as we ascend other 
eminences, for the laudable curiosity of view- 
ing an extended landscape, but rather for the 
dishonest pride of looking down on others of 
our fellow-creatures, seemingly diminutive, in 
humble stations, &c. &c. 

Sunday, 14//* February , 1790. 
God help me ! I am now obliged to join 

" Night to day, and Sunday to the week." 

If there be any truth in the orthodox faith of 

these churches, I am past redemption, 

and what is worse, -^-^— to all eternity. I 
am deeply read in BostorCs Fourfold State, 
Marshall on Sanciification, Guthrie's Trial of 
a Saving Interest, ^c. but " There is no balm 
in Gilead, there is no physician there," for me ; 
so I shall e'en turn Arminian, and trust to 
*' Sincere, though imperfect obedience." 

Tuesday, 16M. 

Luckily for me I was prevented from the 
discussion of the knotty point at which I had 
just made a full stop. All my fears and cares 
are of this world : if there is another, an hon . 
est man has nothing to fear from it. 1 hate a 
man that wishes to be a Deist, but I fear, every 
fair, unprejudiced inquirer must in some degree 
be a sceptic It is not that there are any very 
staggering arguments against the immortality 
of man ; but like electricity, phlogiston, &c. 
the subject is so involved in darkness, that we 
want data to go upon. One thing frightens 
roe much ; that we are to live for ever, seems 
too good news to be true. That we are to enter 
into a new scene of existence, where, exempt 

from want and pain, we shall enjoy ourselves 
and our friends without satiety or separation — 
how much should I be indebted to any one 
who could fully assure me that this was cer- 
tain ! 

My time is once more expired. I will write 
to Mr Cleghom soon. God bless him and all 
his concerns ! And may all the powers that 
preside over conviviality and friendship, be 
present with all their kindest influence, when 
the l)earer of this, Mr Syme, and you meet ! 
I wish I could also make one. — I think we 
should be 

Finally, brethren, farewell ! Whatsoever 
things are lovely, whatsoever things are gentle, 
whatsoever things are charitable, whatsoever 
things are kind, think on these things, and 
think on. 


No. XCV. 


Ellisland, 2d March, 1790. 
At a late meeting of the Monkland Friendly 
Society, it was resolved to augment their library 
by the following books, which you are to send 
us as soon as possible: — The Mirror, The 
Lounger, Man of Feeling, Man of the World, 
^these for my own sake I wish to have by the 
first carrier) Knox's History of the Reformation; 
Rae's History df the Rebellion in 1715; any 
good History of the Rebellion in ]7A6 ; A Dis- 
play of the Session Act and Testimony, by 
Mr GiBB ; Hervey*s Meditations ; Bevcridges 
Thoughts ; and another copy of Watson'^ 
Body of Divinity. 

I wrote to Mr A. Masterton three or four 
months ago, to pay some money he owed me 
into your hands, and lately I wrote to you to 
the same purpose, but I have heard from nei- 
ther one nor other of you. 

In addition to the books I commissioned in 
my last, I want very much. An Index to the 
Excise Laws, or an abridgment of all the Sta- 
tutes now in force, relative to the Excise, by 
Jellinger Symons : I want three copies of this 
book ; if it is now to be had, cheap or dear, 
get it for me. An honest country neighbour 
of mine wants, too, A Family Bible, the larger 
the better, but second-handed, for he does not 
choose to give above ten shillings for the book. 
I want likewise for myself, as you can pick 
them up, second-handed or cheap, copies of 
Otways Dramatic Works, Ben Johnson's, 
DrydeiCs, Congreve's, Wycherley's, Vanbrugh's, 
Cibber's, or any Dramatic Works of the more 
modem — Macklin, Garrick, Foote, Colman, or 
Sheridan. A good copy too of MUiere, in 



French, I much want Any other good dra- 
matic authors in that language I want also ; 
but comic authors chiefly, though I should 
wish to have Racine, Comeiile, and Voltaire 
too. I am in no hurry for all, or any of these, 
but if you accidentally meet with them very 
cheap, get them for me. 

And now, to quit the dry walk of business, 
how do you do, my dear friend ? and how is 
Mrs Hill? I trust if now and then not so 
ekganth/ handsome, at least as amiable, and 
sings as divinely as ever. My good- wife too 
has a charming *< wood-note wild •," now could 
we four 

I am out of all patience with this vile world, 
for one thing. Mankind are by nature bene- 
volent creatures *, except in a few scoundrelly 
instances, I do not think that avarice ' of the 
good things we chance to have, is bom with 
us ; but we are placed here amid so much 
nakedness, and hunger, and poverty, and want, 
that we are under a cursed necessity of study- 
ing selfishness, in order that we may exist ! 
Still there are, in every age, a few souls, that 
all the wants and woes of life cannot debase to 
selfishness, or even to the necessary alloy of 
caution and prudence. If ever I am in danger 
of vanity, it is when I contemplate myself on 
this side of my disposition and character. 
God knows I am no saint; I have a whole 
host of follies and sins to answer for ; but if I 
could, and I believe I do it as far as I can, I 
would wipe away all tears from all eyes. Adieu ! 

No. XCVI. 

EUislandy \Oih April, 1790. 

I HAVB just now, my ever-honoured friend, 
enjoyed a very high luxury, in reading a paper 
of the Lounger, You know my national pre- 
judices. I had often read and admired the 
Spectator, Adventurer, Rambler, and World; 
but still with a certain regret, that they were 
so thoroughly and entirely English. Alas ! 
nave I often said to myself, what are all the 
boasted advantages which my country reaps 
from the Union, that can counterbalance the 
annihilation of her independence, and even her 
very name ! I often repeat that couplet of my 
favourite poet, Goldsmith — 


States of native libeily possest, 

Though very poor, may yet be very blest" 

Nothing can reconcile me to the common 
terms, " English ambassador, English court," 
&c. And I am out of all patience to see that 
equivocal character, Hastings, impeached by 
"the Commons of England.'* Tell me, my 

friend, is this weak prejudice? I believe in 
my conscience such ideas, as, " my country ; 
her independence ; her honour; the illustrious 
names that mark the history of my native 
land,'* &c. — I believe these, among your men 
of the tDor/lt/— men who in fact guide for the 
most part and govern our world, are looked on 
as so many modifications of wrongheadedness. 
They know the use of bawling out such terms, 
to rouse or lead the rabble ; but for their 
own private use, with ahnost all the able states' 
men that ever existed, or now exist, when they 
talk of right and wrong, they only mean proper 
and improper ; and their measure of conduct 
is, not what they ought, but what they dare. 
For the truth of this I shall not ransack the 
history of nations, but appeal to one of the 
ablest judges of men, and nimself one of the 
ablest men that ever lived — the celebrated 
Earl of Chesterfield. In fact, a man who 
could thoroughly control his vices whenever 
they interfered with his interest, and who 
could completely put on the appearance of 
every virtue as often as it suited his purposes, 
is, on the Stanhopian plan, the perfect man ; a 
man to lead nations. But are great abilities, 
complete without a flaw, and polished without 
a blemish, the standard of human excellence ? 
This is certainly the staunch opinion of men of 
the world; but I calljon honour, virtue, and 
worth, to give the Stygian doctrine a loud ne- 
gative ! However, this must be allowed, that, 
if you abstract from man the idea of an exist- 
ence beyond the grave, then, the true measure 
of human conduct is proper and improper: 
Virtue and vice, as dispositions of the heart, 
are in that case, of scarcely the import and 
value to the world at large, as harmony and 
discord in the modifications of sound ; and a 
delicate sense of honour, like a nice ear for 
music, though it may sometimes give the pos- 
sessor an ecstasy unknown to the coarser 
organs of the herd, yet, considering the harsh 
gratings, and inharmonic jars, in this ill. tuned 
state of being, it is odds but the individual 
would be as happy, and certainly would be as 
much respected by the true judges of society, 
as it would then stand, without either a good 
ear or a good heart 

You must know I have just met with the 
Mirror and Lounger for the first time, and I 
am quite in raptures with them : I should be 
glad to have your opinion of some of the papers. 
The one I have just read. Lounger, No. 61, 
has cost me more honest tears than any thing 
I have read of a long time. M^Kenzie has 
been called the Addison of the Scots, and in 
my opinion, Addison would not be hurt at the 
comparison. If he has not Addison's exquisite 
humour, he as certainly outdoes him in the 
tender and the pathetic His Man of Feeling 
(but I am not counsel-learned in the laws of 
criticism,) I estimate as the first performance 
in its kind I ever saw. From what books, 
moral or even pious, will the susceptible ]roung 
mind receive impressions more congenial to 



Immanity and kindness, generosity and bene- 
volence ; in short, nnore of all that ennobles 
the soul to herselt, or endears her to others — 
than from the simple afiecting;^ tale of poor 

Still, with all my admiration of M'Kenzie's 
writings, I do not know if they are the fittest 
reading for a young man who is about to set 
out, as the phrase is, to make his way into life. 
Do not you think, madam, that among the few 
favoured of Heaven in the structure of their 
minds (for such there certainly are), there may 
be a purity, a tenderness, a dignity, an elegance 
of soul, which are of no use, nay, in some de- 
gree, absolutely disqualifying for the truly 
important business of makmg a man's way into 
life. If I am not much mistaken, my gallant 

young friend, A , is very much under 

these disqualifications ; and for the young fe- 
males of a family I could mention, well may 
they excite parental solicitude, for I, a common 
acquaintance, or as my vanity will have it, an 
humble friend, have often trembled for a turn 
of mind which may render them eminently 
happy—or peculiarly miserable I 

J have been manufacturing some verses 
lately; but as I have got the most hurried 
season of excise business over, I hope to have 
more leisure to transcribe any thing that may 
show how much I have the honour to be, 
madam, yours, &c. 


Edinburgh, 25th Maijy 1790. 


1 AM much indebted to you for your last 
friendly, elegant epistle, and it shall make a 
part of the vanity of my composition, to retain 
your correspondence through life. It was 
remarkable your introducing the name of Miss 
Burnet, at a time when she was in such ill 
health ; and I am sure it will grieve your gen- 
tle heart, to hear of her being in the last stage 
of a consumption. Alas ! that so much beauty, 
innocence, and virtue, should be nipt in the 
bud. Hers was the smile of cheerfulness — of 
sensibility, not of allurement ; and her elegance 
of manners corresponded with the purity and 
elevation of her mind. 

How does your friendly muse ? I am sure 
she still retains her affection for you, and that 
you have many of her favours in your posses- 
sion, which I have not seen. I weary much 
to bear iirom you. 

I beseech you do not forget me. 

I most sincerely hope all your concerns in 
life prosper, and that your roof-tree enjoys the 
blessing of good health. All your friends 
here are well, among whom, and not the least, 
is your acquaintance, Cleghom. As for my- 
self, I am well, as far as 

will let a man be ; but with these I am happy. 

When you meet with my very agreeable 
friend J. Syme, give him for me a hearty 
squeeze, and bid, God bless him. 

Is there any probability of your being soon 
in Edinburgh ? 


Dumfries, Excise- Office, WhJufy, 1790. 


Coming into town this morning, to attend my 
duty in this ofiice, it being collection-day, I 
met with a gentleman who tells me he is or 
his way to London ; so I take the opportunity 
of writing to you, as flanking is at present 
under a temporary death. I shall have some 
snatches of leisure through the day, amid our 
horrid business and bustle, and I shall improve 
them as well as I can ; but let my letter be as 

stupid as , as miscellaneous as 

a news- paper, as short as a hungry grace- before, 
meat, or as long as a law-paper in the Douglas* 
cause ; as ill-spelt as country John's billet- 
doux, or as unsightly a scrawl as Betty Byre- 
mucker's answer to it ; I hope, considering 
circumstances, you will forgive it; and as it 
will put you to no expense of postage, I shall 
have the less reflection about it. 

I am sadly ungrateful in not returning you 
my thanks for your most valuable present, 
Zeluco. In fact, you are in some degree 
blameable for my neglect You were pleased 
to express a wish for my opinion of the work, 
which so flattered me, that nothing less would 
serve my over .weening fancy, than a formal 
criticism on the book. In fact, I have gravely 
planned a comparative view of you. Fielding, 
Richardson, and Smollet, in your diflVrent 
qualities and merits as novel-wnters. This, I 
own, betrays my ridiculous vanity, and I may 
probably never bring the business to bear ; but 
I am fond of the spirit young Elihu shows in 
the book of Job — **• And I said, I will also 
declare my opinion." I have quite disfigured 
my copy of the book with my annotations. I 
never take it up without at (he same time 
taking my pencil, and marking with asterisks, 
parentheses, &c. wherever I meet with an ori- 
ginal thought, a nervous remark on life and 
manners, a remarkably well-turned period, or 
a character sketched with uncommon precision. 



this life, as is consistent with the usual mix- 
ture of good and evil in the cup of Being ! 

I have just finished a poem, v\ hicb you will 
receive inclosed. It is my first essay in the 
way of tales. 

I have, these several months, been hammer- 
ing at an elegy on the amiable and accomplished 
Miss Burnet. I have got, and can get, no 
farther than the following fragment, on which, 
please give me your strictures. In all kinds 
of poetic composition, I set great store by 
your opinion ; but in sentimental verses, in the 
jiottry of the heart, no Roman Catholic ever 
set more value on the infallibility of the Holy 
Father than I do on yours. 

I mean the introductory couplets as text 




liiFE ne*er exulted In so rich a prize, 
As Burnet, lovely from her native skies; 
Nor envious death so triumph*d in a blow. 
As that which laid th' accomplish 'd Burnet low. 

Thy form and mind, sweet maid, can I forget; 
In richest ore the brightest jewel set ! 
In thee, high Heaven above was truest shoNMi, 
As by his noblest work the Godhead best is 

In vain ye flaunt in summer's pride, ye groves ; 

Thou cr}'stal streamlet with tliy flowery shore ; 
Ye woodland choir that chaunt your Idle loves. 

Ye cease to charm ; Eliza is no more. 

Ye heathy wastes inmix'd with reedy fens. 
Ye mossv streams, with sedge and rushes 

Ye rugged cliffs o'erhanging dreary glens. 
To you I fly, ye with my soul accord. 

Princes whose cumb'rous pride was all their 

Shall venal lays their pompous exit hail ; 
And thou, sweet excellence ! forsake our earth, 

And not a muse in honest grief bewail. 

We saw thee shine in youth and beauty's pride, 
And virtue's light that beams beyond Uie 
spheres j 

But like the sun eclips'd at morning tide, 
Thou left'st us darkling in a world of tears. 

Let me hear from you soon. Adieu ! 

No. CV'. 

17th January, 1791 

Take these two guineas, and place them over 
against that — — — account of yours ! which 
has gagged my mouth these five or six months ! 
I can as little write good things as apologies 
to the man I owe money to. O the supreme 
curse of making three guineas do the business 
of five ! Not all the labours of Hercules ; not 
all the Hebrews' three centuries of Egyptian 
bondage were such an insuperable business, 
such an task ! ! Poverty ! thou half- 
sister of death, thou cousin german of hell ! 
where shall I find force of execration equal to 
the amplitude of thy demerits ? Oppressed 
by thee, the venerable ancient, grown hoary in 
the practice of every virtue, laden with years 
and wretchedness, implores a little — little aid 
to support his existence, from a stony-hearted 
son of Mammon, whose sun of prosperity 
never knew a cloud ; and is by him denied and 
insulted. Oppressed by thee, the man of 
sentiment, whose heart glows with indepen- 
dence, and melts with sensibility, inly pines 
under the neglect, or writhes in bitterness of 
soul, under the contumely of arrogant, unfeel- 
ing wealth. Oppressed by thee, the son of 
genius, whose ill-starred ambition plants him 
at the tables of the fashionable and polite, 
must see, in sufi^ering silence, his remark ne- 
glected, and his person despised, while shallow 
greatness, in his idiot attempts at wit, shall 
meet with countenance and applause. Nor h 
it onlv the family of worth that have reason to 
complain of thee; the children of folly and 
vice, though in common with thee, the off- 
spring of evil, smart equally under thy rod. 
Owing to thee, the man ot unfortunate dis- 
position and neglected education, is condemned 
as a fool for his dissipation, despised and 
shunned as a needy wretch, when his follies, 
as usual, bring him to want : and when his un- 
principled necessities drive him to dishonest 
practices, he is abhorred as a miscreant, and 
perishes by the justice of l^iis country. But 
far otherwise is the lot of the man of family 
and fortune. His early follies and extra- 
vagance, are spirit and fire ; his consequent 
wants, are the embarrassments of an honest 
fellow; and when, to remedy the matter, he 
has gained a legal commission to plunder dis- 
tant provinces, or massacre peaceful nations, 
he returns, perhaps, laden with the spoils of 
rapine and murder ; lives wicked and respect- 
ed, and dies a and a lord. — Nay, 

worst of all, alas for helpless woman ! the 
needy prostitute, who has shivered at the cor- 
ner of the street, waiting to earn the wages of 
carnal prostitution, is left neglected aiid in- 
sulted, ridden down by the chariot wheels of 
fhecoroneted rip, hurrying on to the guilty as- 
signation : she, who, without the same neces 



si ties to plead, riots nightly in the same guilty 

Weil ! divines may say of it what they 
please, but execration is to the mind, what 
phlebotomy is to the body ; the vital sluices of 
both are wonderfully relieved by their respec- 
tive evacuations. 

No. CVI. 

DEAR SIK, Edinburgh, \2th March, 179 J. 

Mr Hill yesterday put into my hands a sheet 
of Grose^a AntiatiitieSf containmg a poem of 
yours, entitled Tarn o' Shanter, a tale. The 
very high pleasure I have received from the 
perusal of this admirable piece, I feel, demands 
the warmest acknowledgments. HiU tells me 
he is to send off a packet for you this day ; I 
cannot resist therefore putting on paper what 
I must have told you in person, had I met 
with you after the recent perusal of your tale, 
wliich is, that I feel I owe you a debt, which, 
if undischarged, would reproach me with in- 
gratitude. I have seldom in my life tasted of 
higher enjoyment from any work of genius, 
than I have received from this composition ; 
and I am much mistaken, if this poem alone, 
had you never written another syllable, would 
not have been sufficient to have transmitted 
your name down to posterity with high repu- 
tation. In the introductory part, where you 
paint the character of your hero, and exhibit 
him at the ale-house ingU, with his tippling 
cronies, you have delineated nature with a 
humour and naivete, that wculd do honour to 
Matthew Prior ; but when you describe the 
unfortunate orgies of the witches* sabbath, and 
the hellish scenery in which they are exhibited, 
you display a power of imagination, that Shak- 
speare himself could not have exceeded. I 
know not that I have ever met with a picture 
of more horrible fancy than the following : 

** Coffins stood round like open presses, 
That showed the dead in their last dresses : 
And by some devilish cantrip slight. 
Each in his cauld hand held a light " 

But when I came to the succeeding lines, my 
blood ran cold within me : 


A knife a father's throat had mangled. 
Whom his nin son of life bereft: 
The grey hairs yet stuck to the heji, '* 

And here, after the two following lines, 
" Wi* mair o' horrible and awfu',** &c. the de- 
scriptive part might perhaps have been better 
closed, than the four lines which succeed, 
which, though good in themselves, yet as they 
derive all their merit from the satire they con- 
tain, ai*e here rather misplaced among the cir- 

cumstances of pure horror.* The initiation 
of the young witch is most happily described— 
the effect of her charms, exhibited in the 
dance, on Satan himself— the apostrophe — 
" Ah, little thought thy reverend grannie !" — 
the transport of Tam, who forgets his situation, 
and enters completely into the spirit of the 
scene, are all features of high merit, in this 
excellent composition. The only fault it pos- 
sesses, is, that the winding up, or conclusion 
of the story, is not commensurate to the inter- 
est which is excited by the descriptive and 
characteristic painting of the preceding parts. 
— The preparation is fine, but the result is not 
adequate. But for this, perhaps, you have a 
good apology— you stick to the popular tale. 

And now that I have got out my mind, and 
feel a little relieved of the weight of that debt 
I owed you, let me end this desultory scroll by 
an advice :— You have proved your talent for 
a species of composition, in which but a very 
few of our own poets have succeeded — Go on 
— write more tales in the same style ; you 
will eclipse Prior and La Fontaine ,• for, with 
equal wit, equal power of numbers, and equal 
naiveti of expression, you have a bolder, and 
more vigorous imagination. 

I am, dear Sir, with much esteem, 
Yours, ike. 

No. CVII. 


Nothing less than the unfortunate accident I 
have met with, could have prevented my 
grateful acknowledgments for your letter. His 
own favourite poem, and that an essay in a 
walk of the muses entirely new to him, where 
consequently his hopes and fears were in the 
most anxious alarm for his success in the at- 
tempt ; to have th>it poem so much applauded 
by one of the first judges, was the most delici- 
ous vibration that ever trilled along the heart- 
strings of a poor poet. However, providence, 
to keep up the proper proportion of evil with 
the good, which it seems is necessary in this 
sublunary state, thought proper to check my 
exultation by a very serious misfoitune. A 
day or two after I received your letter, my 
horse came down with me and broke my right 
arm. As this is the first service my arm has 
done me since its disaster, I find myself unable 
to do more than just in general terms to thank 
you for this additional instance of your patron- 
age and friendship. As to the faults you 
detected in the piece, they are truly there : one 
of them, the bit at the lawyer and priest, I 
shall cut out ; as to the falling off in the catas- 
trophe, for the reason yuu justly adduce, it 

* Our bard profited by Mr Tytler'8 cntidsm, and 
expunged the four liues accordingijr. 



cannot easily be remedied. Your approbation, 
sir, has given me such additional spirits to 
persevere in this species of poetic composition, 
that I am already revolving two or three stories 
in my fancy. If I can bring these floating 
ideas to bear any kind of embodied form, it 
will give me an additional opportunity of as- 
suring you how much I have the honour to 
be, &c. 



Ellisland, 1th February, 1791. 
When I tell you, madam, that by a fall, not 
from my horse but with my horse, I have been 
a cripple some time, and that this is the tirst 
^ay my arm and hand have been able to serve 
me in writing; you will allow that it is too 
good an apology for my seemingly ungrateful 
silence. I am now getting better, and am able 
to rhyme a little, which implies some tolerable 
ease ; as J cannot think that the roost poetic 
genius is able to compose on the rack. 

I do not remember if ever I mentioned to 
you my having an idea of composing an elegy 
on the late Miss Burnet of Monboddo. I had 
the honour of being pretty well acquainted 
with her, and huvc seldom felt so much at the 
loss of an acquaintance, as when I heard that 
so amiable and accomplished a piece of God's 
works was no more. I have as yet gone no 
farther than the following fragment, of which 
please let me have your opinion. You know 
that elegy is a subject so much exhausted, that 
any new idea on the business is not to be ex- 
pected ; 'tis well if we can place an old idea 
in a new light How far I have succeeded as 
to this last, you will judge from what follows— 

(Here follows the Elegy, Sfc, adding this verse. J 

The parent's heart that nestled fond in thee, 
That heart how sunk, a prey to grief and care ! 

So deckt tJie woodbine s%veet yon aged tree. 
So from it ravaged, leaves it bleak and bare. 

drooping head. Soon and well may her ** ortel 
wounds" be healed ! I have written thus far 
with a good deal of difficulty. When I get a 
little abler you shall hear farther from. 

Madam, yours, &c. 

I have proceeded no further. 

Your kind letter, with your kind remem- 
brance of your god-son, came safe. This last, 
madam, is scarcely what my pride can bear. 
As to the little fellow, he is, partiality apart, 
the finest boy I have of a long time seen. He 
is now seventeen months old, has the small- 
pox and measles over, has cut several teeth, 
and yet never had a grain of doctor's drugs in 
his bowels. 

I am truly happy to hear that the "little 
floweret" is blooming so fresh and fair, and that 
the "mother plant" is rather recovering her 

No. CIX. 



Nothing less than the unlucky accident of 
having lately broken my right arm, could have 
prevented me, the moment I received your 
ladyship's elegant present by Mrs Miller, from 
returning you my warmest and most grateful 
acknowledgments. I assure your ladyship, I 
shall set it apart ; the symbols of religion shall 
only be more sacred. In the moment of poetic 
composition, the box shall be my inspiring 
genius. When I would breathe the compre« 
hensive wish of benevolence for the happiness 
of others, I shall recollect your ladyship ; when 
I would interest my fancy in the distresses 
incident to humanity, I shall remember the 
unfortunate Mary. 

No. ex. 


Whether it is that the story of our Mary, 
Queen of Scots, has a peculiar effect on the 
feelings of a poet, or whether I have, in the 
inclosed ballad, succeeded beyond my usual 
poetic success, I know not : but it has pleased 
me beyond any eflTort of my muse for a good 
while past ; on that account I inclose it parti- 
cularly to you. It is true, the purity of my 
motives may be suspected. I am already 

deeply indebted to Mr 6 *s goodness ; 

and, what in the usual ways of men, is of infi- 
nitely greater importance, Mr G. can do me 
service of the utmost importance in time to 
come. I was born a poor dog ; and however 
I may occasionally pick a better bone than I 
used to do, I know I must live and die poor ; 
but I will indulge the flattering faith that my 
poetry will considerably outlive my poverty; 
and without any fustain affection of spirit, I 
can promise and affirm, that it must be no or- 
dinary craving of the latter shall ever make me 
do any thing injurious to the honest fame of 
the former. Whatever may be my failings, 
for failings are a part of human nature, may 
they ever be those of a generous heart, and an 
independent mind. It is no fault of mine 



that I was born to dependence ; nor is it Mr 
G *s chiefest praise that he can com- 
mand influence ; but it is his merit to bestow, 
not only with the kindness of a brother, but 
with the politeness of a gentleman ; and I 
trust it shall be mine, to receive with thank- 
fulness and remember with undiminished gra- 1 

No. CXI. 

SIR, London, Sth February ^ 1791. 

I TROUBLE you witli this letter, to inform you that 
I am in hopes oi" being able very soon to bring 
to the press a new edition (long since talked 
of) of Michael Bruce^s Poems. The profits of 
the edition are to go to his mother — a woman 
of eighty years ot age— poor and helpless. 
The poems are to be published by subscription ; 
and it may be possible, I think, to make out a 
2s. Gd. or 3s. volume, with the assistance of 
a f?w hitherto unpublished verses, which I have 
got from the mother of the poet. 

But the design I have in view in v.riting to 
you, is not merely to inform you of these facts, 
It is to solicit the aid of your name and pen in 
support of the scheme. The reputation of 
Bruce is already high with every reader of 
classical taste, and I shall be anxious to guard 
against taniishing his character, by allowing 
any new poems to appear that may lower it. 
For this purpose, the MSS. lam in possession 
of, have been submitted to the revision of some 
whose critical talents I can tmst to, and I 
mean still to submit them to others. 

May I beg to know, therefore, if you will 
take the trouble of perusing the MoS. — of 
giving your opinion, and suggesting what cur- 
tailments, alterations, or amendments, occur 
to you as advisable ? And will you allow us 
to let it be known, that a few lines by you will 
be added to the volume ? 

I know the extent of this request. — It is 
bold to make it. But I have this consolation, 
that though you see it proper to refuse it, you 
will not blame me for having; you 
will see my apology in the motive. 

May I just add, that Michael Bruce is one 
in whose company, from his post appearance, 
you would not, I am convinced, blush to be 
found ; and as I would submit every line of 
his that should now be published, to your own 
criticisms, you would be assured that nothing 
derogatory either to him or you, would be ad- 
mitted in that appearance ne may make in 

You have already paid an honourable tri- 
bute to kindred genius in Fergusson — J fondly 
hope that the mother of Bruce will experience 
your patronage. 

I wish to have the subscription papers cir- 
culated by the Hth of March, Bruce's birth- 

day ; which, I understand, some friends in 
Scotland talk this year of observing — at that 
time it will be resolved, I imagine, to place a 
plain, humble stone over his grave. This, at 
least, I trust you will agree to do — to furnish, 
in a few couplets, an inscription for it. 

On those points may I solicit an answer as 
early as possible ; a short delay might disap- 
point us in procuring that relief to the mother, 
which is the object of the whole. 

You will be pleased to address for me under 
cover to the Duke of Athole, London. 

P- S. — Have you ever seen an engraving 
published here some time ago from one of 
your poems, " O thou pale Orb,"* \i jo\x have 
not, I shall have the pleasure of sending it to 

No. CXII. 


Why did you, my dear sir, write to me in such 
a hesitating style, on the business of poor 
Bruce ? Don't I know, and have I not felt, 
the many ills, the peculiar ills that poetic flesn 
is heir to ? You shall have your choice of all 
the unpublished poems I have ; and had your 
letter had my direction so as to hare reached 
me sooner (it only came to my hand this mo- 
ment), I should have directly put you out of 
suspense on the subject, i onlv ask, that 
some prefatory advertisement in the book, as 
well as the subscription bills, may bear, that 
the publication is solely for the benefit of 
Bruce's mother. I would not put it in the 
power of ignorance to surmise, or malice to 
insinuate, that I clubbed a share in the work 
from mercenary motives. Nor need you give 
me credit for anv remarkable generosity in my 
part of the business. I have such a host of 
peccadilloes, failings, follies, and backsUdings 
(any body but myself might perhaps give some 
of them a worse appellation), that by way of 
some balance, however trifling, in the account, 
I am fain to do any good that occurs in my 
very limited power to a fellow- creature, just 
for the selfish purpose of clearing a little the 
vista of retrospection. 


KUisland, ^th February, 1791 

I DO not know, sir, whether you are a sub* 
scriber to Grose's Antiquities of Scotland. If 



you are, the inclosed poem will not be alto- 
gether new to you. Captain Grose did me 
the favour to send me a dozen copies of the 
proof-sheet, of which this is one. Should you 
have read the piece before, still this will an- 
swer the principal end I have in view : it will 
give me another opportunity of thanking you 
for all your goodness to the rustic bard ; and 
also of showing you, that the abilities you have 
been pleased to commend and patronize are 
still employed in the way you wish. 

The Elegy on Captain Henderson, is a tri- 
bute to the memory of a man I loved much. 
Poets have in this the same advantage as 
Roman Catholics ; they can be of service to 
their frienris after they have past that bourne 
where all other kindness ceases to be of any 
avail. Whether, after all, either the one or 
the other be of any real service to the dead, 
is, I fear, very problematical ; but I am sure 
they are highly gratifying to the living ; and as 
a very orthodox text, I forget where in Scrip- 
ture, says, " whatsoever is not of faith, is 
sin ;" so say I, whatsoever is not detrimental 
to society, and is of positive enjoyment, is of 
God, the giver of all good things, and ought 
to be received and enjoyed by his creatures 
with thankful deli^lst. As almost all my re- 
ligious tenets originate from my heart, I am 
wonderfully pleased with the idea, that I can 
still keep up a tender intercourse with the 
dearly beloved friend, or still more dcrjrly be- 
loved mistress, who is gone to the world of 

The ballad on Queen Mary was begun 
while I was busy \>ith Percy's Heliques of 
English Poetry. By the way, how much is 
every honest heart, which has a tincture of 
Caledonian prejudice, obliged to you for your 
glorious story of Buchanan and Targe. *Twas 
an unequivocal proof of your loyal gallantry of 
soul, giving Targe the victory, I should have 
been mortified to the ground if you had not. 

I have just read over, once more of many 
times, your Zeluco. I marked with my pen- 
cil, as I went along, every passage that pleased 
me particularly above the rest; and one, or 
two, I think, which, with humble deference, I 
am disposed to think unequal to the merits of 
the book. I have sometimes thought to tran- 
scribe these marked passages, or at least so 
much of them as to point where they are, and 
send them to you. Original strokes that 
strongly depict the human heart, is your and 
Fielding's province, beyond any other novelist 
I have ever perused. Richardson indeed 
might perhaps be excepted ; but, unhappily, 
his dramatis personce are beings of some other 
world ; and however they may captivate the 
unexperienced, romantic fancy of a boy or a 
girl, they will ever, in proportion as we have 
made human nature our study, dissatisfy our 
riper minds. 

As to my private concerns, I am going on, 
a mighty tax-gatherer before the Lord, and 
have lately had the interest to get myself ranked 
on the list of excise as a supervisor. I am not 
yet employed as such, but in a few years I 
shall fall into the file of supervisorship by 
seniority. I have had an immense loss in the 
death of the Earl of Glencaim ; the patron 
from whom all my fame and good fortune took 
its rise. Independent of my grateful attach- 
ment to him, which was indeed so strong that 
it pervaded my very soul, and was entwined 
uiih the thread of my existence ; so soon as 
the prince's friends had got in (and every dog, 
you know, has his day), my getting forward in 
the excise would have been an easier business 
than otherwise it will be. Though this was a 
consummation devoutly to be wished, yet, 
thank Heaven, I can live and rhyme as I am ; 
and as to my boys, poor little fellows ! if I 
cannot place them on as high an elevation in 
life as I could wish, I shall, if I am favoured 
so much of the Disposer of events as to see 
that period, fix them on as broad and indepen- 
dent a basis as possible. Among the many 
wise adages whicb have been treasured up by 
our Scottish ancestors, this is one of the best. 
Better be the head of the commonalty, as the tail 
o' the gentry. 

But I am got on a subject, which, however 
interesting to me, is of no manner of conse- 
quence to you ; so I shall give you a short poem 
on the other page, and close this with assuring 
you how sincerely I have the honour to be, 
yours, &c. 

Written on the blank leaf of a book, which 
I presented to a very young lady, whom I had 
formerly characterised under the denomination 
of TTie Rose-bud. 

No. CXIV. 

DEAR 8ia, London^ 29th March^ 1791. 

Your letter of the 28th of February I received 
only two days ago, and this day I had the 
pleasure of waiting on the Rev. Mr Baird, at 
the Duke of Athole's, who had been so oblig- 
ing as to transmit it to me, with the printed 
verses on Alloway Church, the Ilfgy on Capt. 
Henderson, and the Epitaph. There aie many 
poetical beauties in the former : what I parti- 
cularly admire are the three striking similes 

" Or like the snow falls in the river,'* 

and the eight lines which begin with 

" By this time he was cross the ford ;** 



to exquisitely expressive of the superstitious 
impressions of the country. And the twenty- 
two lines from 

•• Coffins stood round like open presses," 

which, in my opinion, are equal to the ingre- 
dients of Shakspeare's cauldron in Macbeth, 

As for the Elegy^ the chief merit of it con- 
sists in the very graphical description of the 
objects belonging to the country in which the 
poet writes, and which none but a Scottish 
poet could have described, and none but a real 
poet, and a close observer of Nature could 
I ave so described. 

There is something original, and to me won- 
derfully pleasing, in the Fpitaph, 

I remember you once hinted before, what 
you repeat in your last, that you had made 
some remarks on Zeiuco, on the margin. I 
should be very glad to see them, and regret 
you did not send them before the last edition, 
which is just published. Pray transcribe them 
for me, I sincerely value your opinion very 
highly, and pray do not suppress one of those 
in which you censure the sentiment or expres- 
sion. Trust me it will break no squares be- 
tween us — I am not akin to the Bishop of 

I must now mention what has been on my 
mind for some time : I cannot help thinking 
you imprudent in scattering abroad so many 
copies of your verses. It is most natural to 
give a few to confidential friends, particularly 
to those who are connected with the subject, 
or who are perhaps themselves the subject, but 
this ought to be done under promise not to 
give other copies. Of the poem you sent me 
on Queen Mary, I refused every solicitation 
for copies, but I lately saw it in a newspaper. 
My motive for cautioning you on this subject 
is, that I wish to engage you to collect all your 
fugitive pieces, not already printed, and after 
they have been re-considered, and polished to 
the utmost of your power, I would have you 
publish them by another subscription ; in pro- 
moting of which 1 will exert myself with plea- 

In your future compositions, I wish you 
would use the modern English. You have 
shown your powers in Scottish sufficiently. 
Although in certain subjects it gives additional 
zest to the humour, yet it is lost to the Eng- 
lish ; and why should you write only for a part 
of the island, when you can command the ad- 
miration of the whole. 

If you chance to write to my friend Mrs 
Dunlop of Dunlop, I beg to be affectionately 
remembered to her. She must not judge of 
the warmth of my sentiments respecting her, 
by the number of my letters ; I hardly ever 
write a line but on business : and I do not 
know that I should have scribbled all this to 

you, but for the business part, that is, to insti- 
gate you to a new publication ; and to tell you 
that when you think you have a sufficient 
number to make a volume, you should set 
your friends on getting subscriptions. I wish 
I could have a few hours conversation with 
you — I have many things to say which I can- 
not write. If I ever go to Scotland, I will let 
you know, that you may meet me at your 
own house, or my friend Mrs Hamilton's, or 

Adieu, my dear Sir, &c 

No. CXV. 


EUisland, near Dumfries ^ lith Feb, 1791. 


You must, by this time, have set me down as 
one of the most ungrateful of men. You did 
me the honour to present me with a book 
which does honour to science and the intellec- 
tual powers of man, and I have not even so 
much as acknowledged the receipt of it. The 
fact is, you yourself are to blame for it. Flat- 
tered as I was by your telling me that you 
wished to have my opinion of the work, the 
old spiritual enemy of mankind, who knows 
well that vanity is one of the sins that most 
easily besec me, put it into my head to ponder 
over the performance with the look-out of a 
critic, and to draw up forsooth a deep learned 
digest of strictures on a composition, of which, 
in fact, until I read the book, I did not even 
know the first principles. I own, sir, that at 
first glance, several of your propositions star- 
tled me as paradoxical. That the martial 
clangor of a trumpet had something in it vastly 
more grand, heroic, and sublime, than the 
twingle twangle of a Jews' harp ; that the deli- 
cate flexure of a rose-twig, when the half-blown 
flower is heavy with the tears of the dawn, 
was infinitely more beautiful and elegant than 
the upright stub of a burdock; and that from 
something innate and independent of all asso- 
ciation of ideas ;— these I had set down as 
irrefragible, orthodox truths, until perusing 
your book shook my faith. — In short, sir, ex- 
cept jLucUd's Elements of Geometrt/y which I 
made a shift to unravel by my father's fire-side, 
in the winter evening of the first season I held 
the plough, I never read a book which gave 
me such a quantum of information, and added 
so much to my stock of ideas as your '* Kssaps 
on the Principles of Taste," One thing, sir, 
you must forgive my mentioning as an uncom- 
mon merit in the work, I mean the language. 
To clothe abstract philosophy in elegance of 
style, sounds something like a contradiction in 
terms ; but you have convinced me that they 
are quite compatible. 

I inclose you some poetic bagatelles of my 




Jate composition. The one in print is my 
first essay in the way of telling a. tale. 

I am. Sir, &r. 

No. CXVI. 



12tb March, 1791. 

If the foregoing piece be worth your strictures, 
let me have them. For my own part, a thing 
that I have just composed, always appears 
through a double portion of that partial medium 
in which an author will ever view his own 
works. I believe, in general, novelty has 
something in it that inebriates the fancy, and 
not unfrequently dissipates and fumes away 
like other intoxication, and leaves the poor 
patient, as usual, with an aching heart. A 
striking instance of this might be adduced, in 
the revolution of many a hymeneal honeymoon. 
But lest I sink into stupid prose, and so sacri- 
legiously intrude on the office of my parish 
priest, I shall fill up the page in my own way, 
and give you another song of my late compo- 
sition, which will appear, perhaps, in Johnson's 
work, as well as the former. 

You must know a beautiful Jacobite air. 
Therein never he peace till Jamie comes home. 
When political combustion ceases to be the 
object of princes and patriots, it then, ^ou 
know, becomes the lawful prey of historians 
and poets. 

Br yon castle wa', at the close of the day, 
I heard a man sing, though his head it was grey ; 
And as he was singing, the tears fast down came— 
There'll never be peace 'till Jamie comes hame. 

The church is in ruins, the state is in jars. 
Delusions, oppressions, and murderous wars : 
We dare na' wecl say't, but we ken wha's to 

blame — 
There'll never be peace 'till Jamie comes hame. 

My seven braw sons for Jamie drew sword. 
And now I greet round their green beds in the 

It bracK the sweet heart o' my faithfu* auld dame— 
Therein never be peace *till Jamie comes hame. 

Now life 58 a burden that bows me down, 
Sin' I tint my bairns, and he tint his crown ; 
But 'till my last moment my words are the same— 
There'll never be peace 'till Jamie comes hame. 

If you like the air, and if the stanzas hit 
vour nmcy, you cannot imagine, my dear friend, 
bow much you would oblige me, if, by the 
charms of your delightful voice, you would 

^ve my honest effusion to "the memory o/ 
joys that are past," to the few friends WDom 
you indulge in that pleasure. But 1 have 
scribbled on *till I hear the clock has intimated 
the near approach of 

** That hour o' night's black arch the key-stane. '''- 

So good-night to you ! Sound be your sleep, 
and delectable yoxxr dreams ! Apropos, how 
do you like this thought in a ballao, I have 
just now on the tapis ? 

I look to the west, when I gae to rest, 
That happy my dreams and my slumbers may 

For far in the west is he I lo*e best — 
The lad tliat is dear to my baby and me ! 

Good night, once more, and God bless you ! 


EaUland, nth April, iin. 

I AM once more able, my honoured friend, to 
return you, with my own hand, thanks for the 
many instances of your friendship, and parti- 
cularly for your kind anxiety in this last dis- 
aster that my evil genius had in store for me. 
However, life is chequered— joy and sorrow — 
for on Saturday morning last, Mrs Burns 
made me a present of a fine boy ; rather stouter 
but not so handsome as your god-son was at 
his time of life. Indeed I look on your little 
namesake to be my chef <Pcntvre in that species 
of manufacture, as I look on Tarn o* Shanier 
to be my standard performance in the poetical 
line. *Tis true, both the one and the other 
discover a spice of roguish waggery, that 
might, perhaps, be as well spared; but then 
the^ also show, in my opinion, a force of 
genms, and a finishing poliso, that 1 despair of 
ever excelling. Mrs Bums is getting stout 
again, and laid as lustily about her to-dav at 
breakfast, as a reaper from the corn'riage. 
That is the peculiar privilege and blessinff of 
our hale, sprighdv damseb, that are bred 
among the hay ana heather. We cannot hope 
for that highly polished mind, that charming 
delicacy oi soul, which is found among the 
female world in the more elevated stations of 
life, and which is certainly by far the most be- 
witching charm in the famous cestus of Venus. 
It is indeed such an inestimable treasure, that 
where it can be had in its native heavenly 
purity, unstained by some one or other of the 
many shades of affectation, and unalloyed by 
some one or other of the many species of ca- 
price, I declare to Heaven, I should think it 
cheaply purchased at the exfiense of every 
other earthly good ! But as this angelic area- 



ture is, 1 am afraid, extremely rareJn any station 
and rank of life, and totally denied to such an 
humble one as mine ; we meaner mortals must 
put up with the next rank of female excellence 
—as fine a figure and face we can produce as 
any rank of life whatever; rustic, native 
grace ; unaffected modesty, and unsullied pu- 
rity ; nature's mother wit, and the rudiments 
of taste ; a simplicity of soul, unsuspicious of, 
because unacquainted with, the crooked ways 
of a selfish, interested, disingenuous world; 
— and the dearest charm of all the rest, a yield- 
ing sweetness of disposition, and a generous 
warmth of htart, grateful for love on our part, 
and ardently glowing with a more than equal 
return ; these, with a healthy frame, a sound 
vigorous constitution, which your high ranks 
can scarcely ever hope to enjoy, are the charms 
of lovely woman in my humble walk of lite. 

This is the greatest effort my broken arm 
has yet made. Do, let me hear by first post, 
how cher petit Monsieur comes on with his 
small-pox. May Almighty Goodness pre- 
serve and restore him ! 



nth June, 179). 
Let me interest you, my dear Cunningham, 
in behalf of the gentleman, who waits on you 
with this. He is a Mr Clarke, of Moffat, 
principal schoolmaster there, and is at present 

suffenng severely under the of 

one or two powerful individuals of his em- 
ployers. He is accused of harshness to . . 

. . . that were placed under his care. 
God help the teacher, if a man of sensibility 
and genius, and such is my friend Clarke, 
when a booby father presents him with bis 
booby son, and insists on lighting up the rays 
of science, in a fellow's head whose skull is 
impervious and inaccessible by any other way 
than a positive fracture with a cudgel ; a fellow 
whom, in fact, it savours of impiety to attempt 
making a scholar of, as he has been marked a 
blockhead in the book of fate, at the almighty 
fiat of bis Creator. 

The patrons of Moffat school are, the mi. 
nisters, magistrates, and town-council of Edin- 
burgh, and as the business comes now before 
them, let me beg my dearest friend to do every 
thing in his power to serve the interests of a 
man of genius and worth, and a man whom I 
particularly respect and esteem. You know 
some good fellows among the magistracy and 

council, but 

particularly, you have much to say with a re- 
verend gfjn*leinan to whom you have the hon- 
our of being very nearly related, and whom 
this country and age have had the honour to 
produce. I need not name the historian of 

Charles V.» I tell him, through the medium 
of his nephew's influence, that Mr Clarke is 
a gentleman who will not disgrace even his 
patronage. I know the merits of the cause 
thoroughly, and say it, that ray friend is fulling 
a sacrifice to prejudiced ignorance, and . . 
. . . God help the children of dependence ! 
Hated and persecuted by their enemies, and 
too often, alas! almost unexceptionably, re- 
ceived by their friends with disrespect and 
reproach, under the thin disguise of cold 
civility and humiliating advice. O to be a 
sturdy savage, stalking in the pride of his in- 
dependence, amid the solitary wilds of his 
deserts, rather than in civilized life, helplessly 
to tremble for a subsistence, precarious as the 
caprice of a fellow-creature ! Every man has 
his virtues, and no man is without his failings; 
and curse on that privileged plain.dealing of 
friendship, which in the hour of my calamity, 
cannot reach forth the helping hand without at 
the same time pointing out those failings, and 
apportioning them their share in procuring my 
present distress. My friends, for such the 
world calls ye, and such ye think yourselves 
to be, pass by virtues if you please, but do, 
also, spare my follies : the first will witness in 
my breast for themselves, and the last will give 
pain enough to the ingenuous mind without 
you. And since deviating more or less from 
the paths of propriety and rectitude, must be 
incident to human nature, do thou, fortune, 
put it in my power, always from myself, and 
of myself, to bear the consequences of those 
errors. I do not want to be independent that 
I may sin, but I want to be independent in my 

To return in this rambling letter to ^he 
subject I set out with, let me recommend my 
friend, Mr Clarke, to your acquaintance and 
good offices ; his worth entitles him to the one, 
and his gratitude will merit the other. I long 
much to hear from you. Adieu. 

No. CXIX. 

Dryhurgh Abbey, \llh June, 1791. 

Lord Buchan has the pleasure to invite Mr 
Bums to make one at the coronation of the bust 
of Thomson, on Ednam Hill, on the 22d of Sep- 
tember; for which day perhaps his muse may 
inspire an ode suited to the occasion. Sup- 
pose Mr Bums should, leaving the Nith, go 
across the country, and meet the Tweed at 
the nearest point From his farm — and, wander- 
ing along the pastoral banks of Thomson's 
pure parent stream, catch inspiration on the 
devious walk, till he finds Lord Buchan sitting 
on the ruins of Dryhurgh. There the com- 

» Dr Robertson was anclfl to Mr Cunningham. 




mendator will give him a hearty welcome, and 
try to light his lamp at the pure flame of na- 
tive genius, upon the altar of Caledonian vir- 
tue. This poetical perambulation of the 
Tweed, is a thought of the late Sir Gilbert 
Elliot's and of Lord Minto*s, followed out by 
his accomplished grandson, the present Sir 
Gilbert, who, having been with Lord Buchan 
lately, the project was renewed, and will, they 
hope, be executed in the maimer proposed. 

No. CXX. 

MY I.011D, 

Language sinks under the ardour of my feel- 
ings, when I would thank your lordship for 
the honour you have done me in inviting me 
to make one at the coronation of the bust of 
Thomson. In my first enthusiasm in reading 
the card you did me the honour to write me, I 
overlooked every obstacle, and determined to 
go ; but I fear it will not be in my power. A 
week or two's absence, in the very middle of 
my harvest, is what I much doubt I dare not 
venture on. 

Your lordship hints at an ode for the occa- 
sion : but who would write after Collins ? I 
read over his verses to the memory of Thom- 
son, and despaired. — I got indeed to the length 
of three or four stanzas, in the way of address 
to the shade of the bard, on crowning his bust. 
I shall trouble your lordship, with the sub- 
joined copy of them, which, I am afraid, will 
be but too convincing a proof how unequal I 
am to the task. However, it affords me an 
opportunity of approaching your lordship, and 
declaring bow sincerely and gratefully I have 
the honour to be, &c. 

No. CXXI. 
Dryhurgh Abbey, \%lh September, 179 L 


Your address to the shade of Thomson has been 
well received by the public ; and though I should 
disapprove of your allowing Pegasus to ride iVith 
you off the tield of your honourable and use- 
ful profession, yet I cannot resist an impulse 
which I feel at this moment to suggest to your 
muse. Harvest Homey as an excellent subject 
for her grateful song, in which the peculiar as- 
pect and manners of our country might furnish 
an excellent portrait and landscape of Scotland, 
for the employment of happy moments of lei- 
sure and recess, from your more important 

Your Halloween, and Saturday Night, will 

remain to distant posterity as interesting pie. 
tures of rural innocence and happiness in your 
native countrv, and were happily written in 
the dialect of the people ; but Harvest Home 
being suited to descriptive poetry, except 
where colloquial, may escape disguise of a 
dialect which admits of no elegance or dignity 
of expression. Without the assistance of any 
god or goddess, and without the invocation of 
any foreign muse, you mav convey in episto- 
lary form the descnption ot a scene so gladden- 
ing and picturesque, with all the concomitant 
local position, landscape and costume; con- 
trasting the peace, improvement, and happi- 
ness of the borders of the once hostile nations 
of Britain, with their former oppression and 
misery, and showing, in lively and beautiful 
colours, the beauties and joys of a rural life. 
And as the unvitiated heart is naturally dis- 
posed to overflow in gratitude in the moment 
of prosperity, such a subject would furnish you 
with an amiable opportunity of perpetiuting 
the names of Glencaim, Miller, and your 
other eminent benefactors ; which from what I 
know of your spirit, and have seen of your 
poems and letters, will not deviate from the 
chastity of praise, that is so uniformly united 
to true taste and genius. 

I am. Sir, &c. 



I WOULD, as usual, have availed myself of the 
privilege your goodness has allowed me, of 
sending you any thing I compose in my poeti- 
cal way ; but as J had resolved, so soon as the 
shock of my irreparable loss would allow me, 
to pay a tribute to my late benefactor, I deter- 
mined to make that the first piece I should do 
myself the honour of sending you. Had the 
wing of my fancy been equal to the ardour of 
my heart, the inclosed had been much more 
worthy your perusal ; as it is, I beg leave to 
lay it at your ladyship*s feet. As all the world 
knows my obligations to the late Earl of Glen- 
cairn, I would wish to show as openly that my 
heart glows, and shall ever glow, with the 
most grateful sense and remembrance of his 
lordship's goodness. The sables I did myself 
the honour to wear to his lordship's memory, 
were not the ** mockerv of 'woe.'* Nor shall 
m^ gratitude perish with me : — If, among my 
children, I shall have a son that has a heart, 
he shall hand it down to his child as a fiunily 
honour, and a family debt, that my dearest 
existence I owe to the noble house of Glen- 

I was about to say, my lady, that if you 
think the poem may venture to see the light, 



I would, in some way or other, give it to the 
world. • 



Can you minister to a mind diseased ? Can 
you, amid the horrors of penitence, regret, re- 
morse, head-ache, nausea, and all the rest of 
the d — d hounds of hell, that beset a poor 
wretch, who has been guilty of the sin of 
drunkenness— can you speak peace to a troubled 

Miserable perdu that I am, I have tried every 
thing that used to amuse me, but in vain: here 
must I sit a monument of the vengeance laid 
up in store for the wicked, slowly counting- 
every chick of the clock as it slowly — slowly 
numbers over these lazy scoundrels of hours, 
who, d — n them, are ranked up before me, 
every one at his neighbour's backside, and every 
one with a burthen of anguish on his back, to 
pour on my devoted head — and there is none 
to pity me. My wife scolds me ! my business 
torments me, and my sins come staring me in 
the face, every one telling a more bitter tale 
than his fellow. — When I tell you even . . 
. . has lost its power to please, you will 
guess something of my hell within, and all 
around me — I began Elibanka and Elibraes, 
but the stanza fell unenjoyed, and unfinished 
from my listless tongue; at last I luckily 
thought of reading over an old letter of yours, 
that la^ by me m my book-case, and I felt 
something for the first time since I opened my 

eyes, of pleasurable existence. Well — I 

begin to breathe a little, since I began to write 
you. How are you, and what are you doing ? 
How goes law ? Apropos, for connection's 
sake do not address to me supervisor, for that 
is an honour I cannot pretend to — I am on the 
list, as we call it, for a supervisor, and will be 
called out bye and bye to act one ; but at pre- 
sent, I am a simple gauger, tho' t'other day I 
got an appointment to an excise division of 
^25 per arm. better than the rest My pre- 
sent income, down money, is £10 per ann. 

I have one or two good fellows here whom 
you would be glad to know. 

• The po«m inclosed, ia The Lament for Jamei, Earl 
o) Gtencairn, 


SIR, Near Maybole, IGth October, 1791. 
Accept of my thanks for your favour with the 
Lament on the death of my much esteemed 
friend, and your worthy patron, the perusal of 
which pleased and affected me much. The 
lines addressed to me are very flattering. 

I have always thought it most natural to 
suppose, (and a strong argument in favour of 
a future existence) that when we see an hon- 
ourable and virtuous man labouring under 
bodily infirmities, and oppressed by the frowns 
of fortune in this world, that there was a hap- 
pier state beyond the grave ; where that worth 
and honour which were neglected here, would 
meet with their just reward, and where tem- 
poral misfortunes would receive an eternal 
recompense. Let us cherish this hope for our 
departed friend ; and moderate our grief for 
that loss we have sustained ; knowing that he 
cannot return to us, but we may go to him. 

Remember me to your wife, and with every 
good wish for the prosperity of you and your 
family, believe me at all times, 

Your most sincere friend, 


No. CXXV. 

Edinburgh, 27th Nov, 1791. 

You have much reason to blame me for ne- 
glecting till noiV to acknowledge the receipt of 
a most agreeable packet, containing The Whia- 
tUy a ballad ; and The Lament ; which reached 
me about six weeks ago in London, from 
whence I am just returned. Your letter was 
forwarded to me there from Edinburgh, where, 
as I observed by the date, it had lain for som« 
days. This was an additional reason for me 
to have answered it immediately on receiving 
it ; but the truth was, the bustle of business, 
engagements and confusion of one kind or 
another, in which I found myself immersed all 
the time I was in London, absolutely put it 
out of my power. But to have done with 
apologies, let me now endeavour to prove my- 
self in some degree deserving of the very flat- 
tering compliment you pay me, by giving you 
at least a frank and candid, if it should not be 
a judicious criticism on the poems you sent me. 
The ballad of The Whistle is, in my opinion, 
truly excellent. The old tradition which you 
have taken up is the best adapted for a Baccha- 
nalian composition of any T have ever met 
with, and you have done it full justice. In 
the first place, the strokes of wit arise naturally 
from the subject, and are uncommonly happy. 
For example, — 



*' The bands grew the tighter the more they were 

'* Cynthia hinted she'd find them next mom.** 

** 1 hough Fate said a hero should perish in light, 

So up rose bright- Phoebus and down fell the 

In the next place, jou are singularly happy in 
the discrimination of your heroes, and in giving 
each the sentiments and language suitable to 
his character. And, lastly, you have much 
merit in the delicacy of the panegyric which 
you have contrived to throw on each of the 
dramatis personce, perfectly appropriate to hiai 
character. The compliment to Sir Robert, 
the blunt soldier, is peculiarly fine. In short, 
this composition, in my opinion, does you great 
honour, and I see not a line or a word in it 
which I could wish to be altered. 

As to The Lament^ I suspect, from some 
expressions in youf letter to me, that you are 
more doubtful with respect to the merits of 
this piece than of the other, and I own I think 
you have reason ; for although it contains 
ftome beautiful stanzas, as the firat, <* The wind 
blew hollow," &c. the fifth, "Ye scatter*d 
birds ;" the thirteenth, *< Awake thy last sad 
voice," &c. Yet it appears to me faulty as a 
whole, and inferior to several of those you 
have already published in the same strain. My 
principal objection lies against the plan of the 
piece. I think it was unnecessary and impro- 
per to put the lamentation in the mouth of a 
fictitious character, an aged bard — It had been 
much better to have lamented your patron in 
your own person, to have expressed vour 
genuine feelings for his loss, and to have 
spoken the language of nature rather than that 
of fiction on the subject. Compare this with 
your poem of the same title in your printed 
volume, which begins, O thou pale Orb / and 
observe what it is that forms the charm of that 
composition. It is, that it speaks the language 
of truth and of nature. The change is, in my 
opinion, injudicious too in this respect, that an 
aged bard has much less need of a patron and 
protector than a young one. I have thus given 
you, with much freedom, my opinion of both 
the pieces. I should have made a very ill re- 
turn to the compliment you paid me, if I had 
given you any other than my genuine senti- 

It will give me great pleasure to hear from 
vou when you find leisure, and I beg you will 
believe me ever, dear Sir, yours, &c. 



It is impossible, madam, that the generous 
warmth and angelic purity of your youthful 
min/l, can have any idea of that moral disease 

under whioh I unhappily must rank as the 
chief of sinners ; I mean a torpitiide of the 
moral powers that may be csdled, a lethargy of 
conscience.— In vain remorse rearh her horrent 
crest, and rouses all her snakes ; beneath the 
deadly fixed eye and leaden hand of indolence, 
their wildest ire is charmed into the torpor of 
the bat, slumbering out the rigours of winter 
in the chink of a ruined wall. Nothing less, 
madam, could have made me so long neglect 
your obliging commands. Indeed I had one 
apology-— the bagatelle was not worth, present- 
ing. Besides, so strongly am I interested in 

Miss D 's fate and welfare in the serious 

business of life, amid its chances and changes ; 
that to make her the subject of a silly ballad, 
is downright mockery of these ardent feelings ; 
'tis like an impertinent jest to a dying friend. 

Gracious Heaven ! why this disparity be- 
tween our wishes and our powers ? Why is 
the most generous wish to make others blest, 
impotent and inefifectuai— as the idle breeze 
that crosses the pathless desert ? In my walks 
of life I have met with a few people to whom 
how gladly would I have said—" Go, be happy ! 
I know that your hearts have been wounded 
by the scorn of the proud, whom accident has 
placed above you — or worse still, in whose 
hand are, perhaps, placed many of the comforts 
of your life. But there ! ascend that rock. 
Independence, and look justly down on their 
littleness of soul. Make the worthless trem- 
ble under your indignation, and the foolish sink 
before your contempt ; and largely impait that 
happiness to others, which, I am certain, will 
give yourselves so much pleasure to bestow !" 

Why, dear madam, must I wake from this 
delightful reverie, and find it all a dream? 
Why, amid my generous enthusiasm, must I 
find myself poor and powerless, incapable of 
wiping one tear from the eye of pity, or of 
adding one comfort to the friend I love ! — Out 
upon the world ! say I, that its affairs are ad- 
ministered so ill? They talk of reform; — 
good Heaven ! what a reform would I make 
among the sons, and even the daughters of 
men ! — Down, immediately, shoidd go fools 
from the high places where misbegotten chance 
has perked them up, and through life should 
they skulk, ever haunted by their native insig- 
nificance, as the body marches accompanied by 
its shadow. — As for a much more formidable 
class, the knaves, I am at a loss what to do 
with them : Had I a world, there should not 
be a knave in it. 

But the hand that could give, I would liberally 
fill ; and I would pour delight on the heart 
that could kindly forgive, and generously love. 
Still the inequalities of his life are, among 
men, comparatively tolerable — but there is a 
delicacy, a tenderness, accompanying every 
view in which we can place lovely Woman, 
that are grated ap<^ shocked at the rude, capii* 



cious distinctions of fortune. Women is the 
blood-royal of life : let there be slight degrees 
of precedency among them— but let them be 
ALL sacred. Whether this last sentiroeni be 
right or wrong, I am not accountable ; it is an 
original component feature of my mind. 

No. C XX VII. 

EOUhmd, \lth December, 1791. 

Many thanks to you, madam, for your good 
news respecting the little floweret and the mo- 
ther plant. I hope my poetic prayers have 
been heard, and will be answered up to the 
warmest sincerity of their fullest extent ; and 
then Mrs Henri will find her little darling the 
representative of his late parent, in every thing 
but his abridged existence. 

I have just finished the following song, 
which, to a lady the descendant of Wallace, 
and many heroes of his truly illustrious line, 
and herself the mother of several soldiers, needs 
neither preface nor apology. 

Sc£NE, — A field of battle — time of the day, even- 
ing — the wounded and dying of the victorious 
army are supposed to join in the following 


Farewell, tliou fair day, thou -green earth, and 
ye skies, 
Now gay with the broad setting sun ; 
Farewell, loves and friendships j } e dear, lender 
Our race of existence is run ! 

Thou grim king of terrors, thou life's gloomy foe, 
Go, frighten the coward and slave ; 

Go, teach them to tremble, fell tyrant ! but know, 
No terrors hast thou to the brave ! 

Thou strik'st the poor peasant — he sinks In the 

Nor saves e*en the Avreck of a name : 
Thou strik'st the young hero— ^a glorious mark ! 

He falls in the blaze of his fame ! 

In the field of proud honour— our swords in our 

Our king and our country to save— 
While victory shines on life's last ebbing sands — 

O, who would not die with the brave ! 

' The circumstance that gave rise to the 
foregoing verses was, looking over, with a 
musical friend, M'Donald's collection of High- 
land uis ; I was struck with one, an Isle of 

Skye tune, entitled Oran an Aoig, or, The 
Song of JDeathy to the measure of which I 
have adapted my stanzas. I have of late com- 
posed two or three other little pieces, which 
ere yon full orbed moon, whose broad impu- 
dent face now stares at old mother earth all 
night, shall have shrunk into a modest crescent, 
just peeping forth at dewy dawn, I shall find 
an hour to transcribe for you. A Dieuje vout 
commende / 



5/A January, 1792. 
You see my hurried life, madam : I can only 
command starts of time ; however, I am glad 
of one thing ; since I finished the other sheet, 
the political blast that threatened my welfare 
is overblown. I have corresponded with Com- 
missioner Graham, for the Board had made 
me the subject of their animadversions ; and 
now I have the pleasure of informing you, that 
all is set to rights in that quarter. Now, as to 
these informers, may the devil be let loose to 

but hold ! I was praying most fei'vently 

in my last sheet, and J must not £0 soon fall 
a swearing in this. 

Alas ! how little do the wantonly or idly 
officious think what mischief thev do by their 
malicious insinuations, indirect impertinence, 
or thoughtless blabbings. What a difference 
there is in intrinsic worth, candour, benevo- 
lence, generosity, kindness— >in all the charities 
and all the virtues, between one class of human 
beings and another. For instance, the amiable 
circle I so lately mixed with in the hospitable 

hall of D , their generous hearts — their 

uncontaminated dignified minds — their inform- 
ed and polished understandings — what a con- 
trast, when compared — if such comparing were 
not downright sacrilege — with the soul of the 
miscreant who can deliberately plot the de- 
struction of an honest man that never ofiTended 
him, and with a grin of satisfaction see the 
unfortunate being, his faithful wife, and prat- 
tling innocents, turned over to beggary and 
ruin ! 

Your cup, my dear madam, arrived safe. I 
had two worthy fellows dining with me the 
other day, when I, with great formalitv, pro- 
duced my whigmeleerie cup, and told them 
that it had been a family-piece among the ^de- 
scendants of Sir William Wallace. This 
roused such an enthusiasm, that they insisted 
on bumpering the punch round in it ; and by 
and bye, never did your great ancestor lay a 
Southron more completely to rest than for a 
time did your cup my two friends. Apropos, 
this is the season of wishing. May God bless 
you, my dear friend, and bless me the humblest 
and smcerest of your friends, by granUng you 
yet many returns of the season ! May all good 



tbings attend you and voun wherever tbey are 
scattered over the earth ! 



Dumfries t 22d January, 1792. 

I SIT down, my dear sir, to introduce a young 
ladv to yoU| and a lady in the first ranks of 
fasnion too. What a task ! to you — who care 
no more for the herd of animals called young 
ladies, than you do for the herd of animals 
called young gentlemen. To you— who despise 
and detest the groupings and combinations of 
fashion, as an idiot painter that seems indus- 
trious to place staring fools and unprincipled 
knaves in the foreground of his picture, while 
men of sense and honesty are too often thrown 
in the dimmest shades. Mrs Riddel, who 
will take this letter to town with her and send 
it to you, is a character that, even in your own 
way, as a naturalist and a philosopher, would 
be an acquisition to your acquaintance. The 
lady too is a votary of the muses; and as I 
think nnyself somewhat of a judge in my own 
trade, I assure you that her verses, ^ways 
correct, and often elegant, are much beyond 
the common run of the lady-poetesses or the 
day. She is a great admirer of ^our book, and 
bearing me say that I was acquainted with you, 
she begged to be known to you, as she is just 
going to pay her first visit to our Caledonian 
capital. I told her that her best way was to 
desire her near relation, and your intimate 
friend, Craigdarroch, to have you at bis house 
while she was there ; and lest you might think 
of a lively West Indian girl of eighteen, as 
girls of eighteen too often deserve to be thought 
of, I should take care to remove that prejudice. 
To be impartial, however, in appreciating the 
lady's merits, she has one unlucky failing, a 
fiuling which you will easily discover, as she 
seems rather pleased with indulging in it ; and 
a failing that you will as easily pardon, as it is 
a sin which very much besets yourself; — where 
she dislikes or despises, she is apt to make no 
more a secret of it, than where she esteems 
and respects. 

I will not present you with the unmeaning 
compliments of the season, but I will send you 
my warmest wishes and most ardent prayers, 
that FORTaNE may never throw your subsist- 
ence to the mercy of a knave, or set your 
CHARACTER ou the judgment of a fool, but 
that, upright and erect, you may walk to an 
honest grave, where men of letters shall say, 
here lies a man who did honour to science ; 
and men of worth shall say, here lies a man 
who did honour to human nature ' 

No. CXXX. 

2Qth February, 1792. 
O THOU, wisest among the wise, meridian 
blaze of prudence, full moon of discretion, and 
chief of many counsellors ! How infinitely is 
thy puddle-beaded, rattle-headed, wrong-bead- 
ed, round-headed slave indebted to thy super- 
eminent goodness, that from the luminous path 
of thy own right lined rectitude, thou lookest 
benignly down on an erring wretch, of whom 
the zig-zag wanderings defy all the powers of 
calculation, from the simple copulation of units, 
up to the hidden mysteries of fluxions ! May 
one feeble ray of that light of wisdom which 
darts from thy sensorium, straight as the arrow 
of heaven, and bright as the meteor of inspira- 
tion, may it be my portion, so that J may be 
less unworthy of the face and fovour of that 
father of proverbs and master of maxims, that 
antipode of folly, and magnet among the sages, 
the wise and witty Willie Nicol.' Amen! 
Amen ! Yea, so lie it ! 

Fur me ! I am a beast, a reptile, and know 
nothing! From the cave of my ignorance, 
amid the fogs of my dulness, and pestilential 
fumes of my political heresies, I look up to 
thee, as doth a toad through the iron-ba^d 
lucerne of a pestiferous dungeon, to the cloud- 
less glory of a summer sun ! Sorely sighing 
in bitterness of soul, I say, when shall my 
ff&me be the quotation of the wise, and my 
countenance be the delight of the godly, like 
the illustrious lord of Laggan*s many hills ?* 
As for him, his works are perfect ; never did 
the pen of calumny blur the fair page of his 
reputation, nor the bolt of hatred fly at his 

Thou mirror of purity, when shall the elfine 
lamp of my glimmerous understanding, purged 
from sensual appetites and gross desires, shine 
like the constellation of thy intellectual powers. 
— As for thee, thy thoughts are pure, and t^y 
lips are holy. Never did the unhaUowed 
breath of the powers of darkness, and the 
pleasures of darkness, pollute the sacred flame 
of thy sky-descended and heaven-bound de- 
sires ; never did the vapours of impurity stain 
the unclouded serene of thy cerulean imaffina- 
tion. O that like thine were the tenor oi my 
life, like thine the tenor of my conversation ! 
then should no friend fear for my strength, no 
enemy rejoice in my weakness 1 Then should 
I lie down and rise up, and none to make me 
afraid. — May thy pity and thy prayer be ex- 
ercised for, O thou lamp of wisdom and mirror 
of morality ! thy devoted slave. f 

♦ Mr Nic«I. 

f This strain of irony waa excited by a etter of Mr 
Nicol*a containing good advice. 




3d March, 1792. 

SiNXR I wrote to you the last lugubrious sheet, 
I have not had time to write you farther. 
When I say that I had not time, toat, as usual, 
means, that the three demons, indolence, busi- 
ness, and ennui, have so completely shared my 
hours among them, as not to leave me a five 
minutes fragment to lake up a pen in. 

Thank heaven, I feel my spirits buoying 
upwards with the renovating year. Now I 
shall in good earnest take up Thomson's songs. 
I dare say he thinks I have used him unkindly, 
and I must own with too much appearatice of 
truth. Apropos, do you know the much ad- 
mired old Highland air called The Sulor's 
Dochter t It is a first-rate favourite of mine, 
and I have written what I reckon one of my 
best songs to it. I will send it to you as it 
was sung with great applause in some fashion- 
able circles by Major Robertson, of Lude, 
who was here with his corps. 

There is one commission that I must trou- 
ble you with. I lately lost a valuable seal, a 
present from a departed friend, which vexes 
me much. I have gotten one of your High- 
land pebbles, which I fancy would make a 
very decent one ; and I want to cut my anno, 
rial bearing on it ; will you be so obliging as 
inquire what wiU be the expense of such a 
business? I do not know that my name is 
matriculated, as the heralds call it, at all ; but 
I have invented arms for myself, so you know 
I shall be chief of the name ; and by courtesy 
of Scotland, will likewise be entitled to sup- 
porters. These, however, I do not intend 
having on my seal. I am a bit of a herald ; 
and shall give you, secundum artem^ my arms. 
On a field, azure, a holly bush, seeded, proper, 
in base ; a shepherd's pipe and crook, saltier- 
wise, also proper, in chief. On a wreath of 
the colours, a wood>lark perching on a sprig of 
bay-tree, proper : for crest, two mottoes, round 
the top of the crest. Wood-notes wild. At 
the bottom of the shield, in the usual place, 
Better a wee bush than nae bielcL By the 
shepherd's pipe and crook I do not mean the 
nonsense of painters of Arcadia ; but a Stock 
and HorUi and a Club, such as you see at the 
head of Allan Ramsay, in Allan's quarto edi- 
tion of the Gentle Shepherd. By the bye, do 
you know Allan? He must be a man of very 
great genius.— Why is lie not more known ? 
— Has he no patrons? or do ** Poverty's cold 
wind and crushing rain beat keen and heavy" 
on him ? I once, and but once, got a glance 
of that noble edition of the noblest pastoral in 
the world, and dear as it was, I mean dear as 
to ony pocket, I would have bought it ; but 1 1 

was told that it was printed and engraved foi 
subscribers only. He is the only artist who 
has hit genuine pastoral costume. What, my 
dear Cunningham, is there in riches, that they 
narrow and harden the heart so ? I think that 
were I as rich as the sun, I should be as 
generous as the day ; but as I have no reason 
to imagine my soul a nobler one than any 
other man's, I must conclude that wealth im- 
parts a bird-lime quality to the possessor, at 
which the man, in his native poverty, would 
have revolted. What has led me to this, is 
the idea of such merit as Mr Allan possesses, 
and such riches as a nabob or govemor-con. 
tractor possesses, and why they do not form a 
mutual league. Let wealth shelter and cherish 
unprotected merit, and the gratitude and cele- 
brity of that merit will richly repay it 


Annan Water Foot, 22d August, 1792. 

Do not blame me for it, madam — my own con- 
science, hackneyed and weather-beaten as it is, 
in watching and reproving my vagaries, follies, 
in<iolence, &c. has continued to blame and pu- 
nish me sufficiently. 

Do you think it possible, my dear and hon- 
oured friend, that I could be so lost to grati- 
tude for many favours ; to esteem for much 
worth, and to the honest, kind, pleasurable tie 
of, now, old acquaintance, and J hope and am 
sure of progressive increasing friendship — as, 
for a single day, not to think of you — to ask 
the Fates what they are doing and about to do 
with my much loved friend and her wide-scat- 
tered connexions, and to beg of them to be as 
kind to you and yours as they possibly can. 

Apropos (though how it is apropos, I have 
not leisure to explain), do you know that I am 
almost in love with an acquaintance of yours ? 
— Almost! said I — I am in love, souse ! over 
head and ears, deep as the most unfathomable 
abyss of the boundless ocean ; but the word. 
Love, owing to the intermingledoms of the 
good and the bad, the pure and the impure, in 
this world, being rather an equivocal term for 
expressing one's sentiments and sensations, I 
must do justice to the sacred purity of my at- 
tachment. Know then, that the heart-struck 
awe ; the distant humble approach ; the delight 
we should have in gazing upon and listenmg 
to a Messenger of Heaven, appearing in all 
the unspotted purity of his celestial home, 
among the coarse, polluted, far inferior sons of 
men, to deliver to them tidings that make their 
hearts swim in joy, and their imaginations soar 



m transport— such, so delighting, and so pure, 
were the emotions of my soul on meeting the 
other day with Miss L— B— , your neighbour 

at M . Mr B. with his two daughters, 

accompanied by Mr H. of G. passing through 
Dumfries a few days ago, on their way to 
England, did me the honour of calling on me ; 
on which I took my horse Qtbough Qod knows 
I could ill spare the time), and accompanied 
them fourteen or fifteen miles, and dined and 
spent the day with them. 'Twas about nine, 
I think, when I left them ; and riding home, I 
composed the following ballad, of which you 
will probably think you have a dear barg^n, 
as it will cost you another groat of postage. 
You must know that there is an old ballad be> 
ginning with 

** My bonnie Lizzie Baillie 
I'll row thee in my plaidie," &c. 

So I parodied it as follows, which is literally 
the first copy, " unanointed unannealed,'* as 
Hamlet says. — See the poem. 

So much for ballads. I regret that you are 
gone to the east country, as I am to be in 
Ayrshire in about a fortnight This world of 
ours, notwithstanding it has many good things 
in it, yet it has ever had this curse, that two 
or three people who would be the happier the 
oftener they met together, are, almost without 
exception, always so placed as never to meet 
but once or twice a-year, which, considering 
the few years of a man's life, is a very great 
** evil under the sun," which I do not recollect 
that Solomon has mentioned in his catalogue 
of the miseries of man. I hope and believe 
that there is a state of existence beyond the 
grave, where the worthy of this life will renew 
their former intimacies, with this endearing 
addition, that ** we meet to part no more.'* 

" Tell us, ye dead. 
Will none of you in pity disclose the secret 
What •lis you are, and we must shortly be !•♦ 

A thousand times have J made this apostrophe 
to the departed sons of men, but not one of 
them has ever thought fit to answer the ques- 
tion. ** O that some courteous ghost would 
blab it out !" — but it cannot be ; you and I, my 
friend, must make the experiment by ourselves 
and for ourselves. However, I am so con. 
viiiced that an unshaken faith in the doctrines 
of religion is not only necessary, by making us 
better men, but also by making us happier 
men, that I shall take every care that your 
little god.son, and every little creature that 
shall call me father, shall be taught them. 

So ends this heterogeneous letter, written 
at this wild place of the world, in the intervals 
of my labour of discharging a vessel of rum 
from Antigua. 



Dumfries, lOM September, 1792. 
No ! I will not attempt an apology. — Amid 
all my hurry of business, grinding the face of 
the publican and the sinner on the mercilesa 
wheels of the excise ; making ballads, and then 
drinking, and singing them ; and, over and 
above Jl, the correcting the press-work of two 
different publications ; still, still I might have 
stolen five minutes to dedicate to one of the 
first of my friends and fellow- creatures. I 
might have done, as I do at present, snatched 
an hour near *♦ witching time of night**— and 
scrawled a page or two. I might have con- 
gratulated my friend on his marriage ; or I 
might have thanked the Caledonian archers 
for the honour they have done me (though to 
do myself justice, I intended to have done both 
in rhyme, else I had done both long ere now.) 
Well, then, here is to your good health ! for 
you must know, I have set a nipperkin of 
toddy by me, just by way of speU, to keep 
away the meiUe homed i>eil, or any of his 
subaltern imps who may be on their nightly 

But what shall I write to you ?—«• The 
voice said cry," and I said, ** what shall I cry?'* 
— O, thou spirit ! whatever thou art, or wher- 
ever thou makest thyself visible ! be thou a 
bogle by the eerie side of an auld thorn, in the 
dreary glen through which the herd callan 
maun bicker in his gloamin route frae the 
faulde ! Be thou a brownie, set, at dead of 
night, to thy task by the blazing ingle, or in 
the solitary barn where the repercussions of 
thy iron flail half affright thyself as thou per- 
formest the work of twenty of the sons of men, 
ere the cock-crowing summon thee to thy ample 
cog of substantial brose — Be thou a kelpie, 
haunting the ford or ferry, in the starless night, 
mixing thy laughing yell with the howling of 
the storm, and the roaring of the flood, as thou 
viewest the perils and miseries of man on the 
foundering horse, or in the tumbling boat I — 
Or, lastly, be thou a ghost, paying thy noctur 
nal visits to the hoary ruins of decayed gran- 
deur ; or performing thy mystic rites in the 
shadow of thy time-worn cdurch, while the 
moon looks, without a cloud, on the silent, 
ghastly dwellings of the dead around thee ; or 
taking thy stand by the bedside of the villain, 
or the murderer, pourtraying on his dreaming 
fancy, pictures, dreadful as the horrors of un- 
veiled hell, and terrible as the wrath of incensed 
Deity ! — Come, thou spirit, but not in these 
horrid forms ; ..come with the milder, gentle, 
easy inspirations, which thou breathest round 
the wig of a prating advocate, or the tete of a 
tea-sipping gossip, while their tongues run at 
the light-horse gallop of clishmaclaver for ever 
and ever — come and assist a poor devil who it 
quite jaded in the attempt to share half an idea 



among LtJf a hundred words ; to fill up four 
quarto pages, while he has not got one single 
sentence of recollection, information, or remark 
worth putting pen to paper for. 

I feel, I feel the presence of supernatural 
assistance ! circled in the embrace of my elbow- 
chair, my breast labours, like the bloated Sybil 
on her three-footed stool, and like her too, 
labours with Nonsense.— Nonsense, auspicious 
name ! Tutor, friend, and finger-post in the 
mystic mazes of law ; the cadaverous paths ot 
physic ; and particularly in the sightless soar- 
mgs of SCHOOL DIVINITY, who, leaving Com- 
mon Sense confounded at his stnngth of 
pinion, Reason delirious with eyeing his giddy 
flight, and Truth creeping back into the hot. 
torn of her well, cursing the hour that ever she 
oflTered her scorned alliance to the wizard power 
of Theologic Vision — raves abroad on all the 
winds. " On earth Discord ! a gloomy Hea- 
ven above, opening her jealous gates to the 
nineteen thousandth part of the tithe of man- 
kind ! and below, an inescapable and inexora- 
ble hell, expanding its leviathan jaws for the 
vast residue of mortals!!!" — O doctrine! 
comfortable and healing to the weary, wounded 
soul of a man ! Ye sons and daughters of 
affliction, ye pauvres miserabtes, to whom day 
brings no pleasure, and night yields no rest, be 
comforted ! *' *Tis but one to nineteen hun- 
dred thousand that your situation will mend in 
this world ;" so, alas ! the experience of the 
poor and the needy too often affirms ; and 'tis 
nineteen hundred thousand to one, by the dog- 
mas of — . , that you will be damned eter- 
nally in the world to come ! 

But of all Nonsense, Religious Nonsense is 
the most nonsensical ; so enough, and more 
than enough of it. Only, by the bye, will you, 
or can you tell me, my dear Cunningham, why 
a sectarian turn of mind has always a tendency 
to narrow and illibt^ralize the heart? They 
are orderly ; they may be just ; nay, I have 
known them merciful : but still your children 
of sanctity move among their fellow-creatures 
with a nostril snuffitig putrescence, and a foot 
spurning filth, in short, with a conceited dig- 
nity that your titled 

or any other of your Scottish 

lordlings of seven centuries standing, display 
when they accidentally mix among the many- 
aproned sons of mechanical life. I remember, 
in my plough-boy days, I could not conceive it 
possible that a noble lord could be a fool, or a 
godly man could be a knave. — How ignorant 
are plough-boys !— Nay, I have since discoverd 

that a godli/ woman may \te a ! — But hold 

— Here's t'ye again — this rum is generous 
Antigua, so a very unfit menstruum for scandal. 

Apropos, how do you like, I meati realli/ 
like the married life ! Ah, my friend ! matri- 
mony is quite a diflTerent thing from what your 
love-sick youths and sighing girls take it to be ! 
But marriage, we are told, is appointed by 
God, and I shall never quarrel with any of his 
institutions. I am a husband of older standing 

than you, and shall give you my ideas of the 
conjugal state — (en passantf you know 1 am no 
Latinist, is not conjugal derived from Jugum^ a 
yoke ?) Well, then, the scale of good-wifeship 
I divide into ten parts. — Good-nature, four; 
Good Sense, two; Wit, one; Personal Charms, 
viz. a sweet face, eloquent eyes, fine limbs, 
graceful carriage, (I would add a fine waist 
tuo. but that is so soon spoilt, you know) all 
these, one ; as for the other qualities belonging 
to, or attending on, a wife, such as Fortune, 
Connexions, Education, (I mean education ex- 
traordinary) Family Blood, &c. divide the two 
remaining degrees among them as you please ; 
only, remember that all these minor properties 
must be expressed by fractions, for there is not 
arty one of them, in the aforesaid scale, entitled 
to the dignity of an integer. 

As for tlie rest of my fancies and reveries — 

how I lately met with Miss L B , 

the most beautiful, elegant woman in the world 
— how I accompanied her and her father's 
family fifteen miles on their journey, out of 
pure devotion, to admire the loveliness of the 
works of God, in such an imequalled display 
of them — how, in galloping home at night, I 
made a ballad on her, of which these two stan- 
zas make a part — 

Thou, bonnie L , art a queen. 

Thy subjects we before thee ; 

Thou, bonnie L , ait divine, 

The hearts o' men adore thee. 

The ver)' Deil he could na scaith 

Whatever wad belang thee ! 
He'd look into thy bonnie face 

And say, " 1 canna wrang thee." 

— behold all these things are written in the 
chronicles of my imagination, and shall be read 
by thee, my dear friend, and by thy beloved 
spouse, my other dear friend, at a more con- 
venient season. 

Now, to thee, and to thy before-designed 
bosom-companion y be given the precious things 
brought forth by the sun, and the precious 
things brought forth by the moon, and the 
benignest influence of the stars, and the living 
streams which flow from the fountains of life, 
and by the tree of life, for ever and ever ! 
Amen ! 


Dumfries, 24/A September, 1792. 

I HAVE this moment, my dear madam, yours 
of the twenty-third. All your other kind re- 
proaches, your news, &c. are out of my head 
when I read and think on Mrs H 's situ- 

ation. Good God ! a heart-wounded helpless 
young woman— -in a strange, foreign land, and 
that land convulsed with every horror, that caji 



harrow the human feelings — sick — ^looking, 
longing for a comforter, but finding none— a 
mother's feelings, too — but it is too much : he 
who wounded (he only can) may He heal !* 

I wish the fanner great joy of his new ac- 
quisition to his family. . . . • , • . • • 
I cannot say that I give him jojr of his life as 
a farmer. *Tis, as a farmer paying a dear, un. 
conscionable rent, a cursed life I As to a laird 
farming his own property ; sowing his own 
com in hope ; and reaping it, in spite of brittle 
weather, in gladness ; knowing that none can 
say unto him, "what dost thou ?"— -fattening 
his herds ; shearing his flocks ; rejoicing at 
Christmas ; and begetting sons and daughters, 
until he be the venerated, grey- haired leader of 
a little tribe — 'tis a heavenly life ! but Devil 
take the life of reaping the fruits that another 
must eat. 

Well, your kind wishes will be gratified, as 
to seeing me when I make my Ayrshire visit. 

I cannot leave Mrs B , until her nine 

months' race is run, which may perhaps be in 
three or four weeks. She, too, seems deter- 
mined to make me the patriarchal leader of a 
band. However, if Heaven will be so obliging 
as let me have them on the proportion of three 
boys to one girl, I shall be so much the more 
pleased. I hope, if I am spared with them, to 
show a set of boys that will do honour to my 
cares and name ; but J am not equal to the 
task of rearing girls. Besides, I am too poor ; 
a girl should always have a fortune. Apropos, 
your little god-son is thriving charmingly, but 
is a very devil. He, though two years younger, 
has completely mastered his brother. Robert 
is indeed the mildest, gentlest creature I ever 
saw. He has a most surprising memory, and 
is quite the pride of his schoolmaster. 

You know how readily we get into prattle 
upon a subject dear to our heart : you can ex- 
cuse it. God bless you and yours ! 



I HAD been from home, and did not receive 
your letter until ray return the other day. 
What shall I say to comfort you, my much, 
valued, much^amicted friend ! I can but grieve 
with you ; consolation I have none to offer, 
except that which religion holds out to the 
children of affliction— cAi/c/ren of affliction / — 
how just the expression ! and like every other 

* This marb-lamented lady was gone to the sooth of 
FnuDoe nith her infant son, where she died soon after. 

family, they have matters among them which 
they hear, see, and fed in a serioiis, all-impor- 
tant manner, of which the world has not, nor 
cares to have, any idea. The world looks in- 
differently on, makes the passing remark, and 
proceeds to the next novel occurrence. 

Alas, madam ! who would wish for many 
years ! What is it but to drag existence until 
our joys gradually expire and leave us in a 
night of misery ; like the gloom which blots 
out the stars one by one, from the face of 
night, and leaves us, without a ray of comfort, 
in the howling waste ! 

I am interrupted, and must leave off. You 
shall soon hear from me again. 



Dumfries, 6tA December, 1192. 
I SHALL be in Ajrrshire, I think, next week ; 
and if at all possible, I shall certainly, my 
much-esteemed friend, have the pleasure of 
visiting at Dunlop-house. 

Alas, madam ! how seldom do we meet in 
this world, that we have reason to congratulate 
ourselves on accessions of happiness 1 I have 
not passed half the ordinary term of an old 
man's life, and yet I scarcely look over the 
obituary of a newspaper, that I do not see 
some names that I have known, and which I, 
and other acquaintances, little thought to meet 
\^ith there so soon. Every other instance of 
the mortality of our kind, makes us cast an 
anxious look into the dreadful abyss of uncer- 
tainty, and shudder with apprehensions for our 
own fate. But of bow different an importance 
are the lives of different individuals ? Nay, of 
what importance is one period of the same Ufe, 
more than another ? A few years ago, I could 
have lain down in the dust, " careless of the 
voice of the morning ;** and now not a few, 
and these most helpless individuals, would, on 
losing me and my exertions, lose both their 
'* staff and shield.*' By the way, these helpless 
ones have lately got an addition, Mrs B. hav- 
ing given me a fine girl since I wrote you. 
There is a charming passage in Thomson's 
Edward and Eleanora, 

" The valiant, in himself^ what can he suffer — 
Or what need he regard his tingle woes ?" &c. 

As I am got in the way of quotations, I 
shall give you another from the same piece, 
peculiarly, alas ! too peculiarly apposite, my 
dear madam, to your present frame of mind : 

** Who 80 unworthy but may proudly deck him, 
With his fair-weather virtue, that extUts 
Glad o'er the summer main ? the tempest comes, 
The rough winds rage aloud ; when from the 

This virtue shrinks, and in a comer lies, 



Lamenting — Heavens ! if privileged from trial, 
How cheap a thing were virtue !" 

I do not remember to have heard you men- 
tion Thomson's dramas. I pick up favourite 
quotations, and store them in my mind as ready 
armour, offensive, or defensive, amid the 
struggle of this turbulent existence. Of these 
is one, a very favourite one, from bis Alfred^ 

*' Attach thee firmly to the virtuous deeds 
And ortices of life; to life itself. 
With all its vain and transient joys, sit loose.'' 

Probably I have quoted some of these to 
you formerly, as indeed when I write from the 
heart, I am apt to be guilty of such repetitions. 
The compass of the heart, in the musical style 
of expression, is much more bounded than that 
of the imagination ; so the notes of the former 
are extremely apt to run into one another ; but 
in return for the paucity of its compass, its few 
notes arc much more sweet. I must still give 
you another quotation, which I am almost sure 
I have given you before, but I cannot resist 
the temptation. The subject is religion- 
speaking of its importance to mankind, the 
author says, 

* 'Tis this, my friend, that streaks our morning 
blight/' &c. as in p. 49. 

I see you are in for double postage, so I 
shall e'en scribble out t'other sheet. We in 
this country here have many alarms of the 
reforming, or rather the republican spirit of 
your part of the kingdom. Indeed we are a 
good deal in commotion ourselves. For me, 
I am a placeman, you know ; a very humble one 
indeed. Heaven knows, but still so much so 
as to gag me. What my- private sentiments 
are, you will find out without an interpreter. 

First, in the sexes' intermix'd connexion, 
One sacred Right of Woman is protection. 
The tender flower that lifts its head, elate, 
Helpless, must fall before the blast of fate, 
Sunk to the earth, defaced its lovely form, 
Unless your shelter ward th' impending storm.— 

Our second Right's — but needless here is cau- 
To keep tliat right inviolate^ the fashion. 
Each man of sense has it so full before him. 
He'd die before he'd wrong it — ^'lis decorum. — 
There was, indeed, in far less pollsh'd days, 
A time, when rough rude men had naughty ways: 
Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot. 
Nay, even thus invade a lady's quiet — 
Now, thank our stars! these Gothic limes are 

Now, well-bred men — and you are all well-bred — 
Most justly think (and we are much the gainers) 
Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.* 

For Right the third, our last, our best, our 

That right to fluttering female hearts the nearest, 
Which even the Rights of Kings in lowprostra^ 

Most humbly own — 'tis dear, dear admiration 
In that blest sphere alone we live and move ; 
There taste that life of life — immortal love- 
Smiles, glances, sighs, tears, fits, flirtations, airs, 
'Gainst such an host what flinty savage dare»- 
When awful Beauty joins with all her charms 
Who is so rash as rise in rebel arms ? 

But truce with kings, and truce with constitu- 
With bloody armaments and revolutions, 
Let majesty your first attention summon. 
Ah ! ca ira ! the Majesty of Woman ! 

I shall have the honoiu* of receiving your 
criticisms in person at Dunlop. 

I have taken up the subject in another view ; 
and the other day, for a pretty actress's benefit- 
night, I wrote an address, which I will give 
you on the other page, called The Rights of 


An Occasional Address spoken by Miss Fonte- 
KELLE on her benefit-night. 

WhiJe Europe's eye is fix'd on mighty things, 
The fate of empires and tlie fall of kings. 
While Quacks of state must each produce his 

And even children lisp the Rights of Man ; 
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, 
The Rights of IVoman merit some attention. 



., OF YORK. 

MADAM, 2\st March, 1793. 

Among many things for which I envy those 
hale, long-lived old fellows before the flood, is 
this in particular, that when they met with any 
body after their own heart, they bad a charm- 
ing long prospect of many, many happy meet- 
ings with them in after-life. 

Now, in this short, stormy winter day of our 
fleeting existence, when you now and then, in 
the Chapter of Accidents, meet an individual 
whose acquaintance is a real acquisition, there 
are all the probabilities against you, that you 
shall never meet with that valued character 
more. On the other hand, brief as the miser- 
able being is, it is none of the least of the 
miseries belonging to it, that if there is any 
miscreant whom you hate, or creature whom 

* Ironical allusion to the saturnaSa Jf the CaUdontaa 



you despise, the ill run of the chances shall be 
60 against you, that in the overtaking^, turn- 
ings, and jostlings of life, pop, at some unlucky 
corner, eternally comes the wretch upon you, 
and will not allow your indignation or contempt 
a moment's repose. As I am a sturdy believer 
in the powers of darkness, I take those to be 
the doings of that old author of mischief, the 
devil. It is well known that he has .some 
kind of short- hand way of taking down our 
thoughts, and I make no doubt that he is per- 
fectly acquainted with my sentiments respect- 
ing Miss B ; how much I admired her 

abilities and valued her worth, and how very 
fortunate I thought myself in her acquaintance. 
For this last reason, my dear madam, I must 
entertain no hopes of the very great pleasure 
of meeting with you again. 

Miss H tells me that she is sending a 

packet to you, and I beg leave to send vou the 
inclosed sonnet, though to tell you the real 
truth, the sonnet is a mere pretence, that I may 
have the opportunity of declaring with how 
much respectful esteem I have the honour to 
be. &c. 


MADAM, August f 1793. 

Some rather unlooked-for accidents have pre- 
vented my doing myself the honour of a second 
visit to Arbiegland, as I was so hospitably 
invited, and so positively meant to have done. 
— However, I still hope to have that pleasure 
before the busy months of harvest begin. 

I inclose you two of my late pieces, as some 
kind return for the pleasure I have received in 
perusing a certain MS. volume of poems in 
the possession of Captain Riddel. To repay 
one with an old songy is a proverb, whose force 
you, madam, I know will not allow. What is 
said of illustrious descent is, I believe, equally 
true of a talent for poetry; none ever despised 
it who had pretensions to it. The fates and 
characters of the rhyming tribe often employ 
my thoughts when I am disposed to be melan- 
choly. There is not, among all the martyro- 
logies that ever were penned, so rueful a 
narrative as the lives of the poets.— *In the 
comparative view of wretches, the criterion is 
not what they are doomed to suffer, but how 
they are formed to bear. Take a being of our 
kind, give him a stronger imagination and a 
more delicate sensibility, which between them 
will ever engender a more ungovernable set of 
passions than are the usual lot of man ; implant 
in him an irresistible impulse to some idle 
vagary, such as, arranging wild flowers in 
fantastical nosegays, tracing the grasshopper to 
his haunt by his chirping song, watching the 
frisks of the little minnows in the sunny pool, 
or hunting after the intrigues of butterflies — in 

short, send him adrift after some pursuit which 
shall eternally mislead him from the path of 
lucre, and yet curse him with a keener relish 
than any man living, for the pleasures that lucre 
can purchase ; lastly, fill up the measure of bis 
woes by bestowing on him a spurning sense of 
his own dignity, and you have created a wight 
nearly as miserable as a poet. To you, madam, 
I need not recount the fairy pleasures the ronse 
bestows to counterbalance this catalogue of 
evils. Bewitching poetry is like bewitching 
woman ; she has in all ages been accused of 
misleading mankind from the counsels of wis- 
dom and the paths of prudence, involving them 
in difficulties, baiting them with poverty, 
branding them with infamy, and plunging them 
in the whirling vortex of ruin ; yet where is 
the man but must own that all nappiness on 
earth is not worthy (he name — that even the 
holy hermit's solitary prospect of paradisaical 
bliss is but the glitter of a-northem pun, rising 
over a frozen region, compared with the many 
pleasures, the nameless raptu'es that we owe 
to the lovely Queen of the heart of Man ! 


81 a, December, 1793. 

It is said that we take the greatest liberties 
with our greatest fritiids, and I pay myself a 
vtry high compliment in the manner in which 
I am going to apply the remark. I have owed 
you money longer than ever I owed it to any 
man.— Here is Ker's account, and here are six 
guineas ; and now, I don't owe a shilling to 
man — or woman either. But for these damned 
dirty, dog's ear'd little pages,* I had done my> 
self the honour to have waited on you long ago. 
Independent of the obligations your hospitality 
has laid me under, the consciousness of your 
superiority in the rank of man and gentleman, 
of itself was fully as much as I could ever 
make head against; but to owe you money 
too, was more than I could face. 

I think I once mentioned something of a 
collection of Scotch songs I have for tome 
years been making : I send vou a perusal of 
what I have got together. I could not con- 
veniently spare them above five or six days, 
and five or six glances of them will probably 
more than suffice you. A very few of them 
are my own. When you are tired of them, 
please leave them with Mr Clint, of the King's 
Arms. There is not another copy of the col- 
lection in the world ; and I shall be sorry that 
any unfortunate negligence should deprive me 
of what has cost me a good deal of pains. 

* Scuttitth baolcuotea. 



No. CXL. 



I AM thinking to send my Address to some 
periodical publicarion, but it has not got your 
sanction, so pray look over it. 

As to the Tuesday's play, let me beg of you, 
inv dear madam, let me beg of you to give us, 
The WondeTf a Woman keeps a Secret; to 
which please add, The Spoiled Child — you will 
highly oblige me by so doing. 

Ah, what an enviable creature you are ! 
There now, this ciu*sed gloomy blue-devil day, 
you are going to a party of choice spirits — 

'* To play the shapes 
Of frolic fancy, and incessant form 
Those rapid pictures, that assembled train 
Of fleet ideas, never join'd before, 
Where lively wil excites to gay surprise ; 
Or folly, painting humoUTy grave himself. 
Calls laughter forth, deep-shaking every nerve.'' 

But as you rejoice with them that do rejoice, 
do also remember to weep with them that 
weep, and pity your melancholy friend. 




You were so very good as to promise me to 
honour my friend with your presence on his 
benefit-night. That night is fixed for Friday 
first : the play a most interesting one ! The 
way to keep Him. I have the pleasure to know 
Mr G. well. His merit as an actor is gener. 
ally acknowledged. He has genius and worth 
which would do honour to patronage : he is a 
poor and modest man ; claims which, from 
their very silence, have the more forcible power 
on the generous heart. Alas, for pity ! that, 
from the indolence of those who have the good 
things of this life in their gift, too often does 
brazen-fronted importunity snatch that boon, 
the rightful due of retiring, bumble, want ! 
Of all the qualities we assign to the author 
and director of Nature, by far the most envia- 
ble is — to be able " To wipe away all tears 
from all eyes." O what insignificant, sordid 
wretches are they, however chance may have 
loaded them with wealth, who go to their 
graves, to their magnificent mausnUumtt with 
hardly the consciousness of having made one 
poor honest heart happy ! 

But I crave your |)Hrdori, madam ; I came 
to beg, not to preach. 





I AM extremely obliged to you for your kind 
.Tiention of my interests, in a letter which Mr 

S showed me. At present, my situation 

in life must be in a great measure stationary, 
at least for two or three years. The statement 
is ihis — I am on the supervisor's list; and as 
vre come on there by precedency, in two or 
three years I shall be at the head of that list, 
and be appointed 0/ course — then a Friend 
might be of service to me in getting me into a 
place of the kingdom which I would like. A 
supervisor's income varies from about a hun. 
dred and twenty, to two hundred a-year ; but 
the business is an incessant drudgery, and 
would be nearly a complete bar to every species 
of literary pursuit. The moment I am ap- 
pointed supemsor in the common routine, I 
may be nominated on the collector's list ; and 
this is always a business purely of political 
patronage. A coUectorship varies much, from 
better than two hundred a^year to near a thou- 
sand. They also come forward by precedency 
on the list, and have, besides a handsome in- 
come, a life of complete leisure. A life of 
literary leisure, with a decent competence, is 
the summit of my wbhes. It would be the 
prudish affectation of silly pride in me, to say 
that I do not need or would not be indebted to 
a political friend ; at the same time, sir, I by 
no means lay my affairs before you thus, to 
hook my dependent situation on your benevo* 
lence. If, in my progress of life, an opening 
should occur where the good offices of a gen- 
tleman of your public character and political 
consequence might bring me forward, I will 
petition your goodness with the same frankness 
and sincerity as I now do myself the honour 
to subscribe myself, &c. 



I MEANT to have called on you yesternight, but 
as 1 edged up to your box-door, the first obiect 
which greeted my view, was one of those lob- 
ster-coated puppies, sitting like another dragon, 
guarding the Hesperian fruit. On the condi- 
tions and capitulations you so obligingly offer, 
I shall certainly malte my weather-beaten 
rustic phiz a part of*your box- furniture on 
Tuesday, when we may arrange the business 
of the visit. 



Among the profusion of idle compliments 
which insidious craft, or unmeaning foUv inces- 
santly oflfers at your shrine — a shrine, how far 
exalted above such adoration — permit me, were 
it but for rarity's sake, to pay you the honest 
tribute of a warm heart, and an independent 
mind ; and to assure you, that I am, thou most 
amiable, and most accomplished of thy sex, 
with the most respectful esteem, and fervent 
regard, thine, &c 



I WILL wait on you, my ever- valued friend, but 
whether in the morning I am not sure. Sun- 
day closes a period of our curst revenue busi- 
ness, and may probably keep me employed 
with my pen until noon. Fine employment 
for a poet*8 pen ! There is a species of the 
human genus that I call the gvuhorte class : 
what enviable dogs they are. Round, and 
round, and round they go, — Mundell's ox that 
drives his cotton mill, is their exact protot3rpe 
— without an idea or a wish beyond theii: cir- 
cle : fat, sleek, stupid, patient, quiet, and con- 
tented ; while here I sit, altogether Novem- 

berish, a d melange of fretfulness and 

melancholy ; not enough of the one to rouse 
me to passion, nor of the other to repose me 
in torpor ; my soul flouncing and fluttering 
rouncf her tenement, like a \^ild finch, caught 
amid the horrors of winter, and newly thrust 
into a cage. Well, I am persuaded that it was 
of me the Hebrew sage prophesied, when he 
foretold — ** And behold, on whatsoever this 
man doth set his heart, it shall not prosper !" 
If my resentment is av^kened, it is sure to be 
where it dare not squeak ; and if — 

Pray that wisdom and bliss be more frequent 
visitors of 

R. B. 

No. CXLV. 
I HAVE this moment got the song from S- 

on him, could only have envied my feelings 
and situation. But I hate the theme, and 
never more shall write or speak on it. 

One thing I shall proudly sav, that I can 
pay Mrs < a higher tribute oi esteem, and 
appreciate her amiable worth more truly, than 
any man whom I have seen approach her. 

and I am sorry to see that he has spoilt it a 
good deal. It shall be a lesson to me how I 
lend him any thing again. 

I have sent you Wertert truly happy to have 
any the smallest opportiinity of obliging you. 

*Tis true, madam, I saw you once since I 

was at W ; and that once froze the very 

life-blood of my heart. Your reception of me 
was such, that a wretch meeting the eye of his 
judge, about to pronounce sentence of death 



I HAVE often told you, my dear friend, that 
you had a spice of caprice in your composition, 
and you have as often disavowed it, even per- 
haps while your opinions were, at the moment, 
irrefragably proving it. Could any thing es- 
trange me from a friend such as you ? — No ! 
To-morrow I shall have the honour of waiting 
on you. 

Farewell, thou first of friends, and most 
accomplished of women; even \iith all thy 
little caprices ! 



I RETURN your common -place book. I have 
perused it with much pleasure, and would have 
continued my criticisms, but as it seems the 
critic has forfeited your esteem, his strictures 
must lose their value. 

If it is true that ** oflfences come only from 
the heart," before you I am guiltless. To 
admire, esteem, and prize you, as the most 
accomplished of women, and the first of friends 
— if these are crimes, I am the most ofifending 
thing alive. 

In a face where I used to meet the kind 
complacency of friendly confidence, now to 
find cold neglect, and contemptuous scorn—- is 
a wrench that m^ heart can ill bear. It is, 
however, some kmd of miserable good luck ; 
that while de-haut-enJbas rigour may depress 
an unoffending wretch to the ground, it has a 
tendency to rouse a stubborn something in his 
bosom, which, though it cannot heal the 
wounds of his soul, is at least an opiate to 
blunt their poignancy. 

With the profoundest respect for your abili- 
ties; the most sincere esteem, and ardent 
regard for your gentle heart and amiable man- 
ners ; and the most fervent wish and prayer 
for your welfare, peace, and bliss, I have the 
honour to be, madam, your most deroted hum- 
ble servant. 





You know that among other high dignities, 

you have the honour to be my supreme court 

of critical judicature, from which there is no 
appeal. I inclose you a song which I com- 
posed since I saw you, and I am going to give 
you the history of it. Do you know that 
among much that I admire in the characters 
and manners of those great folks whom I have 
now the honour to call my acquaintances, the 
O family, there is nothing charms me 

more than Mr O's unconcealable attachment 
to that incomparable woman. Did you ever, 
my dear Syme, meet with a man who owed 
more to the Divine Giver of all good things 
than Mr O. ? A fine fortune ; a pleasing 
exterior ; self-evident amiable dispositions, and 
an ingenious upright mind, and that informed 
too, much beyond the usual run of young fel- 
lows of his rank and fortune ; and to all this, 
such a woman !— but of her I shall say nothing 
\t all, in despair of saying any thing adequate : 
in my song, I have endeavoured to do justice 
to what would be his feelings on seeing, in the 
scene I have drawn, the habitation of his Lucy. 
As I am a good deal pleased with my perform- 
ance, I in my first fervour thought of sending 
it to Mrs O , but on second thoughts, 
perhaps what I offer as the honest incense of 
genuine respect, might, from the wellJcnown 
character of poverty and poetry, be construed 
into some modification or other of that servility 
which my soul abhors. * 



Nothing short of a kind of absolute necessity 
could have made me trouble you with this let- 
ter. Except my ardent and just esteem for 
your sense, taste, and worth, every sentiment 
arising in my breast, as I put pen to paper to 
you, is painful. The scenes I have past with 
the friend of my soul, and his amiable con- 
nexions ! The wrench at my heart to think 
that he is gone, for ever gone from me, never 
more to meet in the wanderings of a weary 
world ; and the cutting reflection of all, that I 
had most unfortunately, though roost unde- 
servedly, lost the confidence of that soul of 
worth, ere it took its flight ! 

These, madam, are sensations of no ordinary 
anguish. — However, you, also, may be offended 
with some imputed improprieties of mine ; sen- 

« Th« BODg incloeeA nras the one beginoing with 
♦* O wat ye wha'S in yon town." 

sibility you know I possess, and sincerity none 
will deny me. 

To oppose those prejudices which have been 
raised against me, is not the business of this 
letter. Indeed it is a warfare I know not how 
to wage. The powers of positive vice I can 

in some degree calculate, and against direct 

malevolence I can be on my ^ard ; but who 
can estimate the fatuity of giddy caprice, or 

ward off the unthinking mischief of precipitate 
folly ? 
I have a favour to request of you, madam, 

and of your sister Mrs , through your 

means. You know, that, at the wish of my 
late friend, I made a collection of all my trifles 
in verse which I had ever written. They are 
many of them local, some of them puerile, and 
silly, Qud all of them unfit for the public eye. 
As I have some little fame at staKe, a fame 
that I trust may live, when the hate of those 
who " watch for my halting,** and the contume- 
lious sneer of those whom accident has made 
my superiors, will, with themselves, be gone 
to the regions of oblivion ; I am uneasy now 
for the fate of those manuscripts. — Will Mrs 
— have the goodness to destroy them, or 
return them to me ? As a pledge of friendship 
they were bestowed ; and that circumstance, 
indeed, was all their merit. Most unhappily 
for me, that merit they no longer possess, and 

I hope that Mrs *s goodness, which I well 

know, and ever will revere, will not refuse this 

favour to a man whom she once held in some 
degree of esdmation. 

With the sincerest esteem I have the hon 
our to be, madam, &c 

No. CL. 

25th February, 1794. 

Canst thou minister to a mind diseased? 
Canst thou speak peace and rest to a soul 
tossed on a sea of troubles, without one 
Mendlv star to guide her course, and dreading 
that toe next surge may overwhelm her? 
Canst thou give to a frame, tremblingly alive 
to the tortures of suspense, the stability and 
hardihood of the rock that braves the bUst ? 
If thou canst not do the least of these, why 
wouldst thou disturb me in my miseries, with 
thy inquiries after me ? 

For these two months I have not been able to 
lift a pen. My constitution and frame were, 
ab originBy blasted with a deep incurable taint 
of hypochondria, which poisons my existence. 
Of Idte a number of domestic vexations, and 

some pecuniary share in the ruin of these • 

times ; losses which, though trifling, were yet 
what I could ill bear, have so irritated me. 



While Common-sense, has ta'en the road, 
An' aff, an' up the Cowgate,* 

Fast, fast, that day. 



neist the guard relieves. 

An' orthodoxy raibles, 
Tho' in his heart he weel believes, 

And thinks it auld wives* fables : 
But, faith ; the birkie wants a manse 

So cannily he hums them ; 
Altho* his carnal wit and sense 

Like hafflins-ways o'ercomes him 
At times that day. 

Now but an* ben, the change-house fills, 

Wi* yill-caup commentators : 
Here's crying out for bakes and gills. 

And there the pint stoup clatters ; 
While thick an' thrang, an* loud an' lang, 

Wi' logic, an' wi* Scripture, 
They raise a din, that in the end, 

Is like to breed a rupture 

O* wrath that day. 

Leeze me on Drink ! it gi'es us mair 

Than either School or College : 
It kindles wit, it waukens lair. 

It pangs us fou o* knowledge. 
Be*t whisky gill, or penny wheep. 

Or ony stronger potion. 
It never fails, on drinking deep. 

To kittle up our notion 

By night or day. 


The lads an' lasses, blythelv bent 

To mind baith saul and body. 
Sit round the table weel content, 

An' steer about the toddy. 
On this ane's dress, an* that ane's leuk. 

They're makin' observations ; 
While some are cozie i* the neuk, 

An* forming assignations 

To meet some day. 


But now the L— d*8 ain trumpet touts. 

Till a' the hills are rairin', 
An* echoes back return the shouts : 

Black is na spairin* : 

His piercing words, like Highland swords 

Divide the joints an* marrow ; 
His talk o' Hell, where devils dwell, 

Our very sauls does harrow f 

Wi' fright that day. ; 


A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit, 
Fill'd fou o' lowin* brunstane, 

Wha*s ragin' flame and scorchin* heat, 
Wad melt the hardest whun-stane I 

The half asleep start up wi' fear, 
And think tney bear it roarin*. 

When presently it does appear, 
*Twa8 but some neighbour snorin' 

Asleep that day. 

•Twad be owre lang a tale to tell 

How monie stories past. 
An' how they crowded to the yiU, 

When they were a' dismist : 
How drink gaed round, in cogs an' caups, 

Amang the forms an* benches ; 
An' cheese an' bread, frae women's laps. 

Was dealt about in lunches 

An' dawds that day. 

In comes a gaucie, gash guidwife. 

An' sits down by the fire. 
Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife. 

The lasses they are shyer. 
The auld guldmen, about the grace, 

Frae side to side they boiher. 
Till some ane by his bonnet lays. 

And gi'es them't like a tether, 

Fu' lang that day. 

Waesucks ! for him that gets nae lass, 

Or lasses that hae naetning ! 
Sma* need has he to say a grace 

Or melvie his braw claithing I 
O wives be mindfu' ance yoursel* 

How bonnie lads ye wanted. 
An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel. 

Let lasses be affronted 

On sic a day. 


Now CUnkumheUy wi' rattlin' tow. 

Begins to jow an* croon ; 
Some swagger hame, the best they dow. 

Some wait the afternoon. 
At slaps the billies halt a blink, 

Till lasses strip their shoon : 
Wi' faith an* hope, an' love an* drink. 

They're a' in famous tune. 

For crack that day. 

How monie hearts this day converts 

O' sinners and o* lasses ! 
Their hearts o* stane, gin night, are gane 

As saft as ony flesh is. 
There's some are fou o' love divine ; 

There's some are fou o' brandy ; 
An* mony jobs that day begin. 

May end in houghmagandie 

Some ither day. 

• A street so called, which faces the tent ia 
f Shak8p«ar«;'8 Hamlet. 



involuntary — that an intoxicated man is the 
vilest of beasts— that it was not in my nature 
to be brutal to any one— -that to be rude to a 
vtroman, when in my senses, was impossible 
with me — but— 

Regret ! Remorse ! Shame ! ye three hell- 
hounds that ever dog my steps and bay at my 
heels, spare me ! spare me ! 

Forgive the offences, and pity the perdition 
of, madam, your humble slave. 

No. CLII. 

MY DEAR FRIEND, I5th December t 1795. 
As I am in a complete Decemberish humour, 
gloomy, sullen, stupid, as even the deity of 
Dulness herself could wish, I shall not drawl 
out a heavy letter with a number of heavier 
apologies, for my late silence. Only one I 
shall mention, because I know you va)X svm- 
pathize in it : these four months, a sweet little 
girl, my youngest child, has been so ill, that 
every diay, a week or less threatened to termi- 
nate her existence. There had much need be 
many pleasures annexed to the states of hus- 
band and father, for God knows, they have 
many peculiar cares. I cannot describe to you 
the anxious, sleepless hours these ties fre- 
quently give me. I see a train of helpless 
little folks; me and my exertions all their 
stay; and on what a bnttle thread does the 
life of man hang ! If I am nipt off at the 
command of fate ; even in all the vigour of 
manhood as I am, such things happen every 
day — gracious God ! what would become of 
my little flock ! 'Tis here that I envy your 
people of fortune.— A father on his death-bed, 
taking an everlasting leave of his children, has 
indeed woe enough \ but the man of competent 
fortune leaves his sons and daughters indepen- 
dency and friends ; while I — but I shall run 
distracted if I think any longer on the subject ! 

To leave talking of the matter so gravely, I 
shall sing with the old Scots ballad — 

" O that I had ne'er been manHed, 

I would never had nae care ; 
Now Tve gotten wife and bairns, 

They cry, crowd ie, evermair. 

Crowdie ! ance ; crowdie ! twice ; 

Crowdie! three times in a day : 
All ye crowdie ony mair, 

Ye'll crowdie a' my meal away." — 

Deceniber 24M. 

We have had a brilliant theatre here, this 
season ; only, as all other business has, it ex- 

periences a stagnation of trade from the epide- 
mical complaint of the country, want of cash, 
I mention our theatre merely to lug in an oc- 
casional Address^ which I wrote for the benefit- 
night of one of the actresses, and which is as 
follows : — 


Spoken by Miss Fontenellc on her beneJU-nigkt, 
Dec, 4, 1795, nt the Theatre, Dumjrks. 

Still anxious to secure your partial favour, 
And not less anxious, sure, this night tiian ever, 
A Prologue, Epiloeue, or some such matter, 
'Twould vamp my hill, said I, if nothing better ; 
So, sought a Poet, roosted near the skjes. 
Told him, I came to feast my curious eyes ; 
Said, nothing like his works was ever printed ; 
And last, my prologue-business sUly hinted. — 
" Ma'am, let me tell you," quoth my man of 

rhymes ; 
** 1 know your bent — these are no laughing times* 
Can you — but Miss, 1 own 1 have my fears, 
Dissolve in pause— and sentimental tears — 
With laden sighs, and solemn rounded sentence, 
Rouse from his sluggish slumbers fell Repent- 
Paint Vengeance as he takes his horrid stand 
Waving on high the desolating brand. 
Calling the storij^ to bear him o'er a guilty land !" 

I could no more— askance the creature eyeing, 
DVe think, said I, this face was made forciying ? 
Ill laugh, that's poz — ^nay, more, tlie worid shall 

know it ; 
And so, youi' servant — gloomy Master Poet. 

Firm as my creed, sirs, 'lis my fix'd belief, 
That Misery's another word for Grief: 
1 also thinic — so may I be a bride ! 
That so much laughter, so much life enjoyM — 

Thou man of crazy care and ceaseless sigh. 
Still under bleak misfortune's blasting eye ; 
Doom'd to that sorest tasic of man alive — 
To make three guineas do the work of five ; 
Laugh in Misfortune's face— the beldam witch ! 
Say, youll be merry, though you cant be rich. 

Thou other man of care, the wretch in love. 
Who long with jiltish arts and airs hast strove ; 
Measur'st in desperate thought -a rope— thy 

neck — 
Or, where the beetling cliff o'erhongs the deep, 
Peerest to meditate the healing leap : 
Would'st thou be cured, thou silly, moping elf. 
Laugh at her follies — laugh e'en at thyself: 
Leam to despise those frowns now so terrific, 
And love a kinder — that's your grand specific— 

To sum up all, be merry, I advise; 
And as we're merry, may we still be wise, — 

25/A, Christmas Morning, 

This, my much-loved friend, is a morning ot 
wishes : accept mine — so Heaven hear me as 
they are sincere! that blessings may attend 
your steps, and affliction know you not ! In 



the charming words of my favourite author, 
The Man of Feeling^ " May the great spirit 
bear up the weight of thy gray hairs ; and 
blunt the arrow that brings them rest !'* 

Now that I talk of authors, how do you 
like Cowper ? is not the Task a glorious poem ? 
The reli^on of the Task, bating a few scraps 
of Calvinistic divinity, is the religion of God 
and Nature : the religion that exalts, that en- 
nobles man. Were not you to send me your 
Zeluco in return for mine ? Tell me how you 
like my marks and notes through the book. I 
would not give a farthing for a book, unless I 
were at liberty to blot it with my criticisms. 

I have lately collected, for a friend's perusal, 
all my letters ; I mean those which I first 
sketched, in a rough draught, and afterwards 
wrote out fair. On looking over some old 
musty papers, which from time to time I had 
parcelled by, as trash that were scarce worth 
preserving, and which yet, at the same time, I 
bid not care to destroy, I discovered manv of 
those rude sketches, and have written, and am 
ivriting them out, in a bound MS. for my 
friend's library. As I wrote always to you 
the rhapsody of the moment, I cannot find a 
single scroU to you, except one, about the 
commencement of our acquaintance. If there 
were any possible conveyanci^ I would send 
you a perusal Of my book. 


Dumfries, 20th December, 1795. 

I HAVE been prodigiously disappointed in this 
London journey of yours. In the first place, 
when your last to me reached Dumfries, I was 
in the country, and did not return until too 
late to answer your letter ; in the next place, 
I thought you would certainly take this route ; 
and now I know not what is become of you, 
or whether this may reach you at all Gk>d 
grant that it may find you and yours in pros- 
pering health and good spirits. Do let me 
near from you the soonest possible. 

As I hope to get a frank from my fHend 
Captain Miller, I shall, every leisure hour, 
take up the pen, and gossip away whatever 
comes first, prose or poesy, sermon or song. 
In this last article, I have abounded of late. 
I have often mentioned to you a superb publi- 
cation of Scottish songs which is making its 
appearance in your great metropolis, and wnere 
I have the honour to preside over the Scottish 
verse, as no less a personage than Peter Pin- 
dar does over the English. I wrote the fol- 
lowing for a favourite air. 

December, 29. 
Since I began this letter I have been appointed 

to act in the capacity of supervbor here, and 1 
assure you, what with the load of business, and 
what with that business being new to me, I 
could scarcely have commanded ten minutes to 
have spoken to you, had you been in town, 
much less to have written you an epistle. 
This appointment is only temporary, and dur- 
ing the illness of the present incumbent ; but 
I look forward to an early period when I shall 
be appointed in full form: a consummation 
devoutly to be wished! My political sins 
seem to be foi^given me. 

This is the season (New-year's-day is now my 
date) of wishing ! and mine are most fervently 
offered up for you! May life to you be a 
positive blessing while it lasts, for your own 
sake ; and that it may yet be greatly prolonged, 
is my wish for my own sake, and for the «dce 
of the rest of your friends ! What a transient 
business is life ! Very lately I was a boy j 
but t'other day I was a joung man ; and I 
already begin to feel the rigid fibre and stiffen- 
ing joints of old age coming fast o'er my frame. 
With all my follies of vouto, and, I fear, a few 
vices of manhood, still I congratulate myself 
on having had, in early days, religion strongly 
impressed on my mina. I have nothing to say 
to any one as to which sect he belongs to, or 
what creed he believes ; but I look on the man 
who is firmly persuaded of infinite wisdom and 
goodness, superintending and directing every 
circumstance that can happen in his lot — 1 
felicitate such a man as having a solid founda- 
tion for his mental enjoyment; a firm prop 
and sure stay, in the hour of difficulty, trouble, 
and distress; and a never-failing anchor of 
hope, when he looks beyond the grave. 

January, 12. 
You will have seen our worthy and ingenious 
friend, the Doctor, long ere this. I hope he 
is well, and beg to be remembered to him. I 
have just been reading over again, I dare say 
for the hundred and fiftieth time, his View of 
Society and Manners ; and still I read it with 
delight. His humour is perfectly original— it 
is neither the humour of Addison, nor Swift, 
nor Sterne, nor of any body but Dr Moore. 
By the bye, you have deprived me of Zeluco ; 
remember that, when you are disposed to rake 
up the sins of my neglect from among the ashes 
01 laziness. 

He has paid me a pretty compliment, by 
quoting me in his last publication. * 

* ICdnrard. 



No, CLIV. 

20M January, 1796. 

I CANKOT express my gratitude to you for 
allowing me a longer perusal of Anachar&is. 
In fact, J never met with a book that bewitched 
me so much ; and I, as a member of the library, 
must warmly feel the obligation you have laid 
us under. Indeed to me the obligation is 
stronger than to any other individual of our 
society ; as Anacharsis is an indispensable de- 
sideratum to a son of the muses. 

The health vou wished me in your morning's 
card, is, I think, flown from me for ever. I 
have not been able to leave my bed to-day till 
about an hour ago. These wickedly unlucky 
advertisements I lent (I did wrong) to a friend, 
and I am ill able to go in quest of him. 

The muses have not quite forsaken me. 
The following detached stanzas I intend to in • 
terweave in some disastrous tale of a shepherd. 

No. CLVI. 

No. CLV. 

31 rt January, 1796. 

These many months you have been two pack- 
ets in my debt— what sin of ignorance I have 
committed against so highly valued a friend I 
am utterly at a loss to guess. Alas ! madam, 
ill can I afford at this time, to be deprived of 
any of the small remnant of my pleasures. I 
have lately drunk deep of the cup of affliction. 
The autumn robbed me of my only daughter 
and darling child, and that at a distance too, 
and so rapidlv, as to put it out of my power to 
pay the last auties to her. I had scarcely be- 
gun to recover from that shock, when I became 
myself the victim of a most severe rheumatic 
fever, and long the die spun doubtful; until 
after many weeks of a sick-bed, it seems to 
have turned up life, and I am beginning to 
crawl across my room, and once indeed have 
been before my own door in the street. 

When pleasure fascinates the mental sight, 

Affliction purifies the visual ray, 
Religion hails the drear, the untried niglit, 

That shuts, for ever shuts! life's doubtful day. 


4/A June, 1796. 
I AM in such miserable health as to be utterly 
incapable of showing my loyalty in any way. 
Racked as I am with rheumatisms, I meet every 
face with a greeting like that of Balak to 
Balaam — " Come curse me Jacob ; and come 
defy me Israel !" So say I — Ck)me curse me 
that east wind ; and come, defy me the north ! 
Would you have me, in such circumstances, to 
copy you out a love song ? 

I may perhaps see you on Saturday, but I 
will not be at the ball.— Why should I ? " man 
delights not me, nor woman either !" Can you 
supply me with the song, Let us all he unhappy 
together f — do if you can, and oblige le pauvre 
miserable R> B. 


Brow, Sea-bathing Quarters, 1th July, 1796. 


I RECEIVED yours here this moment, and am 
indeed highly flattered with the approbation of 
the literary circle you mention ; a literary cir- 
cle inferior to none in the two kingdoms. 
Alas ! my friend, I fear the voice of the bard 
will soon be heard among you no more ! For 
these eight or ten months I have been ailing, 
sometimes bedfast and sometimes not ; but 
these last three months I have been tortured 
with an excruciating rheumatism, which has 
reduced me to nearly the last stage. You 
actually would not know me if you saw me. 
Pale, emaciated, and so feeble, as occasionally 
to need help from my chair — my spirits fled ! 
fled !— but I can no more on the subject — only 
the medical folks tell me that my last and only 
chance is bathing and country quarters, and 
riding. The deuce of the matter is this ; when 
an exciseman is off duty, his salary is reduced 
to ^35 instead of ^650— What way, in the 
name of thrift, shall I maintain myself and 
keep a horse in country quarters — with a wife 
and five children at home, on £3b ? I men- 
tion this, because I had intended to beg your 
utmost interest, and that of all the friends you 
can muster, to move our Commissioners of 
Excise to grant me the full salary.. 1 dare say 
you know them all personally. If they do not 



grant it me, I must lay my account with an 
exit truly en poete^if I die not of disease, I 
must perish with hunger. 

I have sent you one of the songs ; the other 
my memory does not serve me with, and I 
have no copy here ; but I shall be at home 
soon, when I will send it you. Apropos to 
being at home, Mrs Bums threatens in a week 
or two to add one more to my paternal charge, 
which, if of the right gender, I intend shall be 
introduced to the world by the respectable de- 
signation of Alexander Cunningham Burnt i 
My last was James Glencaim ; so you can 
have no objection to the company of nobility. 



MY DEAREST LOVE, Brow, Thursday, 

I DELAYED Writing until I could tell you what 
effect sea-bathing was likely to produce. It 
would be injustice to deny that it has eased 
my pains, and I think has strengthened me ; 
but my appetite is still extremely bad. No 
flesh nor fish can I swallow; porridge and 
milk are the only thing I can taste. I am very 
happy to hear, by Miss Jess Lewars, that you 
are well. My very best and kindest compli- 
ments to her and to all the children. I will 
see you on Sunday. Your affectionate hus- 
band, R. B. 

No. CLIX. 


MADAM, I2M J«/y, 1706. 

I HAVE written you so often, without receiving 
any answer, thAt I would not trouble you 
again, but for the circumstances in which I 
am. An illness which has long hung about 
me, in all probability will speedily send me 
beyond that howme whence no traveUer returns. 
Your friendship, with which for many years 
you honoured me, was a friendship dearest to 
my souL Your conversation, and especially 
yonr correspondence, were at once highly en- 
tertaining and instructive. With what plea- 
sure did I use to break up the seal ! The 
remembrance yet adds one pulse more to my 
poor palpitating heart. Farewell ! ! ! 

R. B. 

The above is supposed to be the last produc- 
tion of RofiXRT BuEMs, who died on the 2l8t of 
the month, nine days afterwards. He had, how- 
ever, the pleasure of receiving a satisfactory 
explanation of his friend's silence, and an assur- 
ance of the continuance of her friendship to his 
widow and children ; an assurance that has been 
ampl^ fulfilled. 

It IS probable that the greater part of her let- 
ters to him were destroyed by our baj'd about the 
time that this last was written. He did not 
foresee that his own letters to her were to appear 
in print, nor conceive the disappointment that 
will be felt, that a few of this excellent lady's 
have not served to enrich and adorn the collec- 






While Common-sense has ta'en the road, 
An* aff, an* up the Cowgate,* 

Fast, fast, that day. 


neist the guard relieves. 

An* orthodoxy raibles, 
Tho' in his heart he weel believes, 

And thinks it auld wives* fables : 
But, faith ; the birkie wants a manse 

So cannily he hums them ; 
Altbo* his carnal wit and sense 

Like hafflins-ways o*ercomes him 
At times that day. 

Now but an* ben, the change-house fills, 

Wi* jrill-caup commentators : 
Here's crying out for bakes and gills. 

And there the pint stoup clatters ; 
While thick an* thrang, an* loud an* lang, 

Wi* logic, an' wi* Scripture, 
They raise a din, that in the end, 

Is like to breed a rupture 

O* wrath that day. 


Leeze me on Drink ! it gi*es us mair 

Than either School or College : 
It kindles wit, it waukens lair. 

It pangs us fou o* knowledge. 
Be*t whisky gill, or penny wheep. 

Or ony stronger potion. 
It never fails, on drinking deep, 

To kittle up our notion 

By night or day. 


The lads an' lasses, blythely bent 

To mind baith saul and body. 
Sit round the table weel content. 

An' steer about the toddy. 
On this ane's dress, an' that ane*8 leuk, 

They're makin' observations ; 
While some are cozie i* the neuk, 

An* forming assignations 

To meet some day. 

But now the L— d*s ain trumpet touts. 

Till a' the hills are rairin', 
An* echoes back return the shouts : 

Black is na spairin* : 

His piercing words, like Highland swords 

Divide the joints an* marrow ; 
His talk o' Hell, where devils dwell, 

Our very sauls does harrow f 

Wi* fright that day. ; 

A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit, 

FilPd fou o* lowin* brunstane, 
Wha*s ragin' flame and scorchin' heat. 

Wad melt the hardest whun-stane I 

• A street so called, which faces the tent ia • 
f Shak8p«are*8 Hamlet. 

The half asleep start up wi' fear, 
And think they hear it roarin'. 

When presently it does appear, 
'Twas but some neighbour snorin* 

Asleep that day. 

*Twad be owre lan^ a tale to tell 

How monie stones past. 
An* how they crowded to the 3nll, 

When they were a' dismist : 
How drink gaed round, in cogs an< caups* 

Amang the forms an' benches ; 
An' cheese an* bread, frae women's laps. 

Was dealt about in lunches 

An* dawds that day. 

In comes a gaucie, gash guidwife, 

An' sits down by the fire. 
Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife. 

The lasses they are shyer. 
The auld guidmen, about the grace, 

Frae side to side they bother. 
Till some ane by bis bonnet la3rs. 

And gi'es them't like a tether, 

Fu* lang that day. 

Waesucks ! for him that gets nae lass. 

Or lasses that hae naething ! 
Sma* need has he to say a grace 

Or melvie his braw claithing I 
O wives be mindfu' ance yoursel' 

How bonnie lads ye wanted, 
An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel, 

Let lasses be affronted 

On sic a day . 


Now ClinhumheUj wi' rattlin' tow, 

Begins to jow an" croon ; 
Some swagger hame, the best they dow. 

Some wait the afternoon. 
At slaps the billies halt a blink. 

Till lasses strip their shoon : 
Wi* faith an* hope, an' love an' drink, 

They're a' in famous tune, 

For crack that day. 

How monie hearts this day converts 

O' sinners and o' lasses ! 
Their hearts o* stane, gin night, are gane 

As saft as ony flesh is. 
There's some are fou o' love divine ; 

There's some are fou o' brandy ; 
An* mony jobs that day begin. 

May end in houghmagandie 

Some ither day. 








My Lords and Gentlemen, 
A Scottish Bard, proud of the name, and 
whose highest ambition is to sing in his 
Country's service — where shall he so properly 
look for patronage as to the illustrious names 
of his native Land ; those who bear the hon- 
ours and inherit the virtues of their Ancestors? 
The Poetic Genius of my Country found me, 
bs the prophetic bard Elijah did Elisha— at 
the plough; and threw her inspiring mantle 
over me. She bade me sing the loves, the 
joys, the rural scenes and rural pleasures of 
my native soil, in my native tongue ; I tuned 
my wild, artless notes, as she inspired— She 
whispered me to come to this ancient Me- 
tropolis of Caledonia, and lay my Songs under 
your honoured protection : I now obey her 

Though much indebted to your goodness, I 
do not approach you, my Lords and Gentle- 
men, in the usual style of dedication, to thank 
you for past favours ; that path is so hackneyed 
by prostituted learning, that honest rusticity is 
ashamed of it. Nor do I present this Address 
Mrith the venal soul of a servile Author, look- 
ing for a continuation of those favours : I was 
bred to the Plough, and am independent. J 
come to claim the common Scottish name with 
you, my illustrious Countrymen ; and to tell 
the world that I glory in the title. I come to 
congratulate my Country, that the blood of her 

ancient herpes still runs uncontaminated ; and 
that from your courage, knowledge, and public 
spirit, she may expect protection, wealth, and 
liberty. In the last place, I c6me to proffer my 
warmest wishes to the Great Fountain of Hon- 
our, the M)!iarch of the Universe, for your 
welfare and happiness. 

When you go forth to awaken the Echoes, 
in the ancient and favourite amusement of 
your forefathers, may Pleasure ever be of your 
party ; and may Social Joy await your return : 
When harassed in courts or camps with the 
jostlings of bad men and bad measures, may 
the honest consciousness of injured worth 
attend your return to your native Seats ; and 
may Domestic Happiness, with a smiling wel- 
come, meet you at your gates ! May corruption 
shrink at your kindling indignant glance ; and 
may tyranny in the Ruler, and licentiousness 
in the People, equally find you an inexorable 

I have the honour to be, 
With the sincerest gratitude, 
and highest respect. 

My Lords and Gentlemen, 
Your most devoted humble servant, 

April 4, 1*787. 






TwAs in that place o* Scotland's isle, 
That bears the name o' AuU King Coil^ 
Upon a bonnie day in June, 
When wearing thro* the afternoon, 
Twa dogs that were na thrang at hame, 
Foiigather'd ance upon a time. 

The first 1*11 name they ca*d him CcBtar, 
Was keepit for his Honour*8 pleasure : 
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, 
Show'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs ; 
But whalpit some place far abroad, 
Wliere sailors gang to fish for cod. 

His locked, letter*d, braw brass collar 
Show'd him the gentleman and scholar : 
But tho' he was o* high degree, 
The fient a pride na pride had he ; 
But wad hae spent an hour caressin', 
Ev'n with a tinkler gipsey's messin*. 
At kirk or market, mUl or smiddie, 
Nae tawted tyke, tho' e'er sae duddie. 
But he wad stan't, as glad to see him, 
And Btroan*t on stanes an' hillocks wi' him. 

The tither was a ploughman's collie, 
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie, 
Wha for his friend an' comrade had him, 
And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him, 
After some dog in Highland sang,* 
Was made lang syne — Lord knows how lang. 

He was a gash an' faithiii' tyke, 
As ever lap a sheugh or dyke. 
His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face, 
Aye gat him friends in ilka place. 
His breast was white, his towzie back 
Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black ; 
His gawcie tail, wi' upward curl, 
Hung o'er his hurdies wi' a swurl. 

* CucliuUia'8 dog in OMisQ*s FingoL 

Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, 
An* unco pack an' thick thegither ; 
Wi' social nose whyles snuff'd and snowkit ; 
Whyles mice and modieworts they howkit; 
Whyles scour'd awa in lang excursion. 
An' worry 'd ither in diversion ; 
Until wi' daffin weary grown. 
Upon a knowe they sat them down. 
And there began a lang digression. 
About the lords o* tlie creation, 


I've aften wonder'd honest Luath, 
What sort o' life poor dogs like you have ; 
An' when the gentry's life I saw, 
What way poor bodies lived ava. 

Our Laird gets in his racked rents. 
His coals, his kain, and a' his stents : 
He rises when he likes himsel'; 
His flunkies answer at the bell ; 
He ca's his coach, he ca's his horse ; 
He draws a bonnie silken purse, 
As lang's my tail, whare, thro' the steeks, 
The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks. 

Frae mom to e'en its nought but toiling, 
At baking, roasting, frjring, boiling ; 
An* tho' the gentry fast are stechin', 
Yet ev'n the ha' folk fill their pechan 
Wi' sauce, ragouts, and sic like trashtrie. 
That's little short o' downright wastrie. 
Our Whipper-in, wee blastit wonner. 
Poor worthless elf, it eats a dinner, 
Better than ony tenant man 
His Honour has in a* the Ian' : 
An' what poor cot-folk pit their painch in, 
I own its past my comprehension. 


Trowth, Caesar, whyles they're fasht eneugh ; 
A cotter howkin in a sheugh, 
Wi' dirty stanes biggin a dyke. 
Baring a quarry, and sic like. 
Himself, a wife, he thus sustains, 
A smytrie o' wee duddie weans, 
. An' nought but his han' darg, to keep 
Them right and tight in thack ar' rape. 




While Common-sense has ta'en the road, 
An* aff, an' up the Cowgate,* 

Fasti fast, that day. 


neist the guard relieves, 

An* orthodoxy raibles, 
Tho' in his heart he weel believes, 

And thinks it auld wives* fables : 
But, faith ; the birkie wants a manse 

So cannily he hums them ; 
Altho* his carnal wit and sense 

Like hafflins-ways o'ercomes him 
At times that day. 

Now but an* ben, the change- house fills, 

Wi* yill-caup commentators : 
Here's crying out for bakes and gills. 

And there the pint stoup clatters ; 
While thick an' thrang, an* loud an* lang, 

Wi' logic, an' wi* Scripture, 
They raise a din, that in the end, 

Is like to breed a rupture 

O* wrath that day. 

Leeze me on Drink ! it gi*e8 us mair 

Than either School or College : 
It kindles wit, it waukens lair. 

It pangs us fou o* knowledge. 
Be't whisky gill, or penny wheep. 

Or ony stronger potion. 
It never fails, on drinking deep. 

To kittle up our notion 

By night or day, 


The lads an' lasses, blythelv bent 

To mind baith saul and body. 
Sit round the table weel content. 

An' steer about the toddy. 
On this ane's dress, an' that ane*8 leuk, 

They*re raakin' observations ; 
While some are cozie i' the neuk, 

An' forming assignations 

To meet some day. 

But now the L— d's ain trumpet touts, 

Till a' the hills are rairin', 
An* echoes back return the shouts : 

Black is na spairin' : 

His piercing words, like Highland swords 

Divide the joints an' marrow; 
His talk o' Hell, where devils dwell. 

Our very sauls does harrow f 

Wi* fright that day. ; 

A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit, 

Fill'd fou o* lowin* bninstane, 
Wha's ragin' flame and scorchin' heat. 

Wad melt the hardest whim-stane 1 

The half asleep start up wi' fear, 
And think they hear it roarin*. 

When presently it does appear, 
'Twas but some neighbour snorin* 

Asleep that day. 

'Twad be owre lang a tale to tell 

How monie stories past. 
An' how they crowded to the 3nU, 

When they were a' dismist : 
How drink gaed round, in cogs an' catips* 

Amang the furms an' benches ; 
An' cheese an' bread, frae women's laps. 

Was dealt about in lunches 

An' dawds that day. 


In comes a gaucie, gash guidwife. 

An' sits down bv the fire, 
Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife. 

The lasses they are shyer. 
The auld guidmen, about the grace ^ 

Frae side to side they boiher. 
Till some ane by his bonnet lays, 

And gi'es them't like a tether, 

Fu' lang that day. 


Waesucks ! for him that gets nae lass. 

Or lasses that hae naething ! 
Sma* need has he to say a grace 

Or melvie his braw claithing I 
O wives be mindfu* ance yoursel' 

How bonnie lads ye wanted, 
An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel, 

Let lasses be affronted 

On sic a day. 


Now ClinkumheU, wi' rattlin' tow, 

Begins to jow an* croon ; 
Some swagger hame, the best they dow. 

Some wait the afternoon. 
At slaps the billies halt a blink. 

Till lasses strip their shoon : 
Wi' faith an* hope, an* love an* drink, 

They're a' in famous tune, 

For crack that day. 

How monie hearts this day converts 

O' sinners and o' lasses ! 
Their hearts o* stane, gin night, are gane 

As saft as ony flesh is. 
There's some are fou o' love divine ; 

There's some are fou o' brandy ; 
An' mony jobs that day begin. 

May end in houghmagandie 

Some ither day. 

• A itreet so called, which facea the tent la • — - 
f Shak8p«artf*8 Hamlet. 




h — d, man, were ye but whyles where I am, 
The gentles ye wad ne'er envy 'em. 

It's true, they need na starve or sweat, 
Thro* winter's cauld or simmer's heat ; 
They've nae sair wark to craze their banes. 
An' till auld age wi gripes an' granes : 
But human bodies are sic fools, 
For a' their colleges an* schools. 
That when nae real ills perplex them, 
They mak enow themselves to vex them. 
An' aye the less they hae to sturt them, 
In like proportion less will hurt them ; 
A country fellow at the pleugh. 
His acres till'd, he's right eneugh ; 
A country girl at her wheel. 
Her dizzens done, she's unco weel ; 
But Gentlemen, an' lAdies warst, 
Wi* ev'ndown want o' wark are curst. 
They loiter, lounging, lank, an' lazy ; 
Tho* deil haet ails them, yet uneasy ; 
Their days insipid, dull, an' tasteless ; 
Their nights unquiet, lang, an' restless ; 
An* ev'n their sports, their balls, an* races. 
Their gallopin' through public places. 
There's sic parade, sic pomp, an' art, 
The joy can scarcely reach the heart. 
The men cast out in party matches. 
Then sowther a' in deep debauches : 
Ae night they're mad wi' drink an' wh-ring, 
C^^eist day their life is past enduiing. 
The ladies arm-in-arm in clusters. 
As great and gracious a', as sisters ; 
But hear their absent thoughts o' ither. 
They're a' run deils an' jads thegitber. 
Whyles o'er the wee bit cup and platie. 
They sip the scandal potion pretty ; 
Or lee lang nights, wi' crabbit leuks 
Pore owre the devil's pictur'd beuks ; 
Stake on a chance a farmer's stackyard, 
An' cheat like ony unhang'd blackguard. 

There*s some exception, man an' woman ; 
But this is Gentry's life in common. 

By this the sun was out o' sight : 
An' darker gloaming brought the night : 
The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone ; 
The kye stood rowtin' i' the loan : 
Wlien up they gat an shook their lugs, 
Rejoic'd they were na men but dogs ; 
And each took aff his several way, 
Resolv'd to meet some ither day. 


Oie him strong drink, until he M'ink, 
That's sinking in despair : 

An* liquor guicl to fire nis bluid. 
That's prest wi' grief an* care ; 

There let blm boiue, and d(*ep caroute 

Wi' bumpers flowing o'er. 
Till be forgets his hvet or debts. 

An' minds his griefs no more. 

Solomon's Proverbs, xxxi. 6, "J, 

Let other poets raise a fracas, 

'Bout vines, and wines, and drunken Bacchui, 

An' crabbit names an' stories wrack us. 

An' grate our lug, 
I sing the juice Scots bear can mak us, 

In glass or jug. 

O Thou, my Muse / guid auld Scotch Drink ; 
Whether thro' wimpling worms thou jink, 
Or, richly brown, ream o'er the brink, 

In glorious faem. 
Inspire me, till I lisp and wink, 

To sing thy name 

Let husky Wheat the haughs adorn. 
And Aits set up their awnie horn. 
All' Pease and Beans at e'en or morn, 

Perfume the plain, 
Leeze me on thee, John Barleycom, 

Thou king o' grain ! 

On thee aft Scotland chows her cood, 
In souple scones, the wale o' food ! 
Or tumblin' in the boiling flood, 

Wi' kail an* beef; 
But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood, 

There thou shines chief. 

Food fills the wame, an' keeps us livin' ; 
Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin,' 
When heavy dragg'd wi' pine and grievin' ; 

But oilM by thee, 
The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin', 

Wi' rattlin' glee. 

Thou clears the head o' doited Lear ; 
Thou cheers the heart o' drooping Care ; 
Thou strings the nerves o' Labour sair ; 

At's weary toil ; 
Thou even brightens dark Despair 

Wi' gloomy smile. 

Aft, clad in massy silver weed, 
Wi' Gentles thou erects thy head ; 
Yet humbly kind in time o' need, 

The poor man's wine. 
His wee drop parritch, or his bread. 

Thou kitchens fine. 

Thou art the life o' public haunts ; 
But thee, what were our fairs and rants ? 
Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts, 

By thee inspir'd, 
When gaping they besiege the tents. 

Are doubly fird. 

That merry night we get the com in, 
O sweetly then thou reams the horn in ! 
Or reekin' on a New- year morning 

In oog or bicker, 



An' just a wee drap spiritual burn in, 

An' gusty sucker 1 

When Vulcan gies his bellows breath. 
An* ploughmen gather wi' their graith, 
O rare ! to see the fizz an' fireath 

r the lugget caup ! 
Then Burnewin* comes on like death 

At ev'ry chaup. 

Nae mercy, then, for airn or steel ; 
The brawnie, bainie, ploughman chiel', 
Brings hard owrehip, wi* sturdy wheel. 

The strong forehammer, 
Till block an' studdie ring and reel 

Wi' dinsome clamour. 

When skirlin weanies see the light, 
Thou maks the gossips clatter bright, 
How fumblin' cuifs their dearies slight, 

Wae worth the name ! 
Nae howdie gets a social night, 

Or plack frae them. 

When neebours anger at a plea. 
An' just as wud as wud can be, 
How easy can the barley tree 

Cement the quarrel ; 
It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee. 

To taste the barrel. 

Alake ! that e'er my Muse has reason 
To wyte her countrymen wi' treason i 
But mony daily weet their weason 

Wi' liquors nice, 
An' hardly, in a winter's season, 

E*er spier her price. 

Wae worth that brandy, burning trash, 
Fell source o* monie a pain an* brash ! 
Twins monie a poor, doylt, drunken hash, 

O' half his days ; 
An' sends, beside, auld Scotland's cash 

To her warst faes. 

Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well ! 
Ye chief, to you my tale I tell, 
Poor plackless devils like myseV ! 

It sets you ill, 
Wi* bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell. 

Or foreign gill. 

May gravels round his blather wrench. 
An' gouts torment him inch by inch, 
Wha twists his gruntle wi' a glunch 

O* sour disdain, 
Out owre a glass o' whisky punch 

Wi' honest men. 

O Whisky ! soul o' plays an' pranks 1 
Accept a Bardie's humble thanks ! 
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks 

Are my poor verses ! 

Thou comes they rattle i' their ranks 

At ither's a — s I 

Thee, Ferintosh / O sadly lost ! 
Scotland, lament frae coast to coast ! 
Now colic grips, an barkin boast. 

May kill us a' ; 
For loyal Forbes' chartered boast 

Is ta*en awa' ! 

Thae curst horse leeches o* th' Excise, 
Wha mak the Whis/^ SteOs their prize ! 
Haud up thy han*, Deil ! ance, twice, thrice ! 

There, seize the blinkers ! 
An* bake them up in brunstane pies 

For poor d — n'd drinkers. 

Fortune ! if thou'U but gie me still 
Hale breeks, a scone, an' Whisky gill. 
An' rowth o' rhyme to rave at will, 

Tak a* the rest. 
An* deal't about as thy blind skill 

Directs thee best. 

THE author's 





Dearest of Distillation ! last and best 

How art thou lost ! Parody on MxUok* 

Ye Irish Lords, Ye Knights an' Squires, 
Wha represent our brughs an* shires, 
And doucely manage our affairs 

In parliament. 
To you a simple Poet's prayers 

Are humbly sent. 

Alas ! my roupet Muse is hearse ! 
Your honours' hearts wi* grief 'twad pierce 
To see her sittin* on her a — 

Low i* the dust, 
An' screichin' out prosaic verse, 

An' like to brust ! 

Tell them wha hae the chief direction, 
Scotland an* me*8 in great affliction. 
E'er sin' they laid that curst restriction 

On AquavitcB; 
An* rouse them up to strong conviction 

An* move their pity. 

« 5?«rm?fP/»—5Mm-<Ae.frin<<— the blacksmith— an ap- 
propriate title. 

• This was viTitten before the act anent the Scotrb 
Dlstilleriea, of session 1786 ; for which Scotland and the 
Author return their most grateful thanks. 



Stand forth, an' tell yon Premier Youth, 
The honest, open, naked truth : 
Tell him o' mine an Scotland's drouth. 

His servants humble : 
The muckle devil blaw ye south, 

If ye dissemble ! 

Does ony great man glunch an' gloom ! 
Speak out, an' never fash your thumb 
ijei posts em* pensions sink or soom 

Wi' them wha grant *em ; 
If honestly they canna come, 

Far better want 'em. 

In gath'ring votes you were na slack ; 
Now stand as tightly by your tack ; 
Ne'er, claw your lug, an' ndge your back, 

An* hum an' haw ; 
But raise your arm, an' tell your crack 

Before them a*. 

Paint Scotland greeting owre her thrissle ; 
Her mutch kin stoup as toom's a whissle ; 
An* d-mn*d Excisemen in a bussle, 

Seizin' a steS, 
Triumphant crushin*t like a mussel, 

Or lampit shell. 

Then on the titber hand present her, 
A blackguard Smuggler right behint her, 
An* cheek-for-chow, a chuffie Vintner, 

Colleaguing join, 
Picking her pouch as bare as winter 

Of a' kind coin. 

Is there, that bears the name o' Scot, 
But feels bis heart's bluid rising hot, 
To see his poor auld Mither's pot 

Thus dung m staves, 
An* plunder'd o' her hindmost groat 

By gallows knaves ? 

Alas ! I'm but a nameless wight, 
Trode i' the mire out o' sight ! 
But could I like Montgomeries fight, 

Or gab like Boswell, 
There's some sark-necks I wad draw tight. 

An* tie some hose well. 

God bless your Honours, can ye see't. 
The kind, auld, cantie Carlin greet. 
An' no get warmly to your feet, 

An' ^r them hear it. 
An' tell them wi' a patnot beat, 

Ye winna bear it ! 

Some o' you nicely ken the laws, 
To round the period an' pause, 
An* wi' rhetoric clause on clause 

To mak harangues ; 
Then echo thro' Saint Stephen's wa's 

Auld Scotland's wrangs. 

Dempstery a true blue Scot I'se warran ; 
Thee, aith* detesting, chaste Kilkerran ; 

. • 

* Sir Adani Fergxisoti. 

An' that glib-gabbet Highland Baron, 

The Laird o* Graham ;• 

An' ane, a chap that's damn'd auldfarran, 

Dundas his name. 

Erskine, a spunkie Norland billie ; 
True Campbelh, Frederick, an' llay: 
An' ZivingstoM, the bauld Sir Willie; 

An* money ithers, 
Whom auld Demosthenes or TuUy 

Might own for brithers. 

Arouse, my bovs ' exert your mettle, 
To get auld Scotland back her keltU ; 
Or faith ! I'll wad my new pleugh-pettle, 

Ye'U see't or lang. 
She'll leach yon, wi* a reekin' whittle, 

Anither sang. 

This while she's been in cank*rou8 mood, 
Her loKt Militia fir'd her bluid ; 
(Deil na they never mair do guid, 

Play'd her that pliskie !) 
An' now she's like to rin red-wud 

About her Whisky. 

An' L — d if ance they pit her till't. 
Her tartan petticoat she'll kilr. 
An* durk an' pistol at her bell^ 

She'll tak the streets. 
An' rin her whittle to the hilt, 

I' the first she meets ! 

For G — d sake, Sirs ! then speak her fur. 
An* straik her cannie wi' the hair. 
An' to the muckle house repair, 

Wi* instant speed. 
An* strive, wi' a* your wit an' lear, 

To get remead. 

Yon ill-tongu'd tinkler, Charlie Fox, 
May taunt you wi' his jeers an' mocks ; 
But gie him*t het, my hearty cocks ! 

£'en cowe the caddie ! 
An* send him to his dicing box 

An* sportin* lady. 

Tell yon guid bluid o' auld Boconnock*$, 
I'll be his debt twa mashlum bannocks. 
An' drink his health in auld Nanae Tinnocks\ 

Nine times a week, 
If he some scheme, like tea an* winnocks. 

Wad kindly seek. 

Could he some commutation broach, 
I'll pledge my aith in guid braid Scotch, 
He need na fear their foul reproach 

Nor erudition. 
Yon mixtie-maxtie queer hotch-potch, 

The Coalition. 

Auld Scotland has a raucle tongue ; 
She's just a devil wi' a rung ; 

* The present Duke of Mnntrofle.— (1800.) 
f A worthy old Hostess of the Author'^ in Maiich- 
tine, where he sometimea studies Politic^ over a glnu 
of guid auld Scotch Drink. 



While Common-sense has ta'en the road, 
An* aff, an* up the Cowgate,* 

Fast, fast, that day. 


neist the guard relieves, 

An' orthodoxy raibles, 
Tho' in his heart he weel believes, 

And thinks it auld wives* fables : 
But, faith ; the birkie wants a manse 

So cannily he hums them ; 
Altho* his carnal wit and sense 

Like hafflins-ways o'ercomes him 
At times that day. 

Now but an* ben, the change-house fills, 

Wi* yill-caup commentators : 
Here*8 crying out for bakes and gills, 

And there the pint stoup clatters ; 
While thick an' thrang, an' loud an* lang, 

Wi* logic, an' wi* Scripture, 
They raise a din, that in the end, 

Is like to breed a rupture 

O* wrath that day. 

Leeze me on Drink ! it gi*es us mair 

Than either School or College : 
It kindles wit, it waukens lair, 

It pangs us fou o* knowledge. 
Be*t whisky gill, or penny wheep, 

Or ony stronger potion, 
It never fails, on drinkhig deep, 

To kittle up our notion 

By night or day. 


The lads an* lasses, blythely bent 

To mind baith saul and body. 
Sit round the table weel content. 

An* steer about the toddy. 
On this ane's dress, an* that ane*s leuk, 

They're makin' observations ; 
While some are cozie i* the neuk, 

An* forming assignations 

To meet some day. 


But now the L— d*s ain trumpet touts, 

Till a' the hills are rairin', 
An* echoes back return the shouts : 

Black is na spairin* : 

His piercing words, like Highland swords 

Divide the joints an' marrow; 
His talk o' Hell, where devils dwell, 

Our very sauls does harrow f 

Wi' fright that day.; 


A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit, 
Fill'd fou o' lowin* brunstane, 

Wha's rdgin' dame and scorchin' heat. 
Wad melt the hardest whun-stane I 

The half asleep start up wi* fear. 
And think they hear it roarin*. 

When presently it does appear, 
'Twas but some neighbour snorin* 

Asleep that day. 

•Twad be owre lan^ a tale to tell 

How monie stones past, 
An' how they crowded to the yiU, 

When they were a' dismist : 
How drink gaed round, in cogs an* caups* 

Amang the furms an' benches ; 
An* cheese an* bread, frae women's laps, 

Was dealt about in lunches 

An* dawds that day. 


In comes a gaucie, gash guidwife, 

An* sits down by the fire. 
Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife. 

The lasses they are shyer. 
The auld guidmen, about the grace, 

Frae side to side they boiher, 
Till some ane by bis bonnet lays. 

And gi'es them*t like a tether, 

Fu* lang that day. 

Waesucks ! for him that gets nae lass, 

Or lasses that hae naething ! 
Sma* need has he to say a grace 

Or melvie his braw claithing ! 
O wives be mindfu* ance yoursel* 

How bonnie lads ye wanted, 
An* dinna for a kebbuck-heel. 

Let lasses be afifronted 

On sic a day. 


Now Clinkumhell, wi' rattlin* tow, 

Begins to jow an* croon ; 
Some swagger hame, the best they dow. 

Some wait the afternoon. 
At slaps the billies halt a blink, 

Till lasses strip their shoon : 
Wi' faith an' hope, an* love an* drink, 

They're a' in famous tune. 

For crack that day. 


How monie hearts this day converts 

O' sinners and o* lasses I 
Their hearts o' stane, gin night, are gane 

As saft as ony flesh is. 
There's some are fou o' love divine ; 

There's some are fou o' brandy ; 
An* mony jobs that day begin. 

May end in houghmagandie 

Some ither day. 

• A street to railed, which faces the tent in 
f Shakep«are*8 Hamlet. 



An' if she promise auld or young 

To tak their part, 

Tho' by the neck she should be strung 

Shell no desert 

An* now, ye chosen Five-and-Forty, 
May still your Mither's heart support ye : 
Iheu, tho* a Minister grow dorty, 

An' kick your place, 
YeM snap your fingers, poor an* hearty, 

Before his face. 

God bless your Honours a* your days, 
Wi' soups o' kail and brats o* claise, 
In spite o' a' the thievish kaes 

That haunt Si Jamie's f 
Your humble poet sings an* prays 

While Rob his name is. 


Let half-starVd slaves, in warmer skies 
St»e future wines, rich clust'ring rise ; 
Their lot auld Scotland ne'er envies. 

But blithe and frisky. 
She eyes h* r freeborn martial boys, 

Tak aff their Whisky. 

What tho* their Phoebus kinder warms, 
While fragrance blooms and beauty charms I 
When wretches range, in famish'd swarms, 

The scented groves. 
Or hounded forth, dishonour arms 

In hungry droves. 

Their gun's a burden on their shouther ; 
They downa bide the stink o* pouther ; 
Their bauldest thought's a hank'ring swither 

To Stan' or rin. 
Till skelp— a shot— they're aff, a' throwther. 

To save their skin. 

But bring a ScoUman frae his hill, 
Clap in his cheek a Highland gill, 
Say, such is royal George'* will, 

An' there's the foe, 
He has nae thought but bow to kill 

Twa at a blow. 

Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings tease him ; 
Death comes, with fearless eye he sees him ; 
Wi' bluidy hand a welcome gies him j 

An' when he fa's, 
His latest draught o' breathiu' lea'es him 

In faint huzzas. 

Sages their solemn een may steek. 
An' raise a philosophic retk. 
An' physically causes seek, 

In clime an' season ; 
But tell me Whuhy's name in Greek, 

I'll tell the reason. 

Scotland, my auld, respected Mither ! 
Tho' whyles ye moistlfy your leather, 

Till whare you sit, on craps o' heather. 

Ye tine your dam ; 

{Freedom and Whisky gang thegither !) 

Tak aff your dram ! 


A robe ot seemlof truth and tmsl 

Hid craftv Obberratkm ; 
And secret hang with poiaoa^ emit. 

The dirk of Defamation : 
A mask that like the gorgvt show'd 

Dye. varying on the p geon ; 
Anil for a mantle large and broad, 

He wrapt him in Religion. 


Upon a simmer Sunday morn. 

When Nature's fac« is f<ar,' 
I walked forth to view the corn, 

An* snuff the oallar air. 
The rising sun owre Oaltion muirs, 

Wi* glorious light was glintin' 
The hwcea were hirpUn* down the fiirs. 

The lav'rocks they were chantin* 

Fu' sweet that day. 

As lightsomely I glowr'd abroad 

To see a scene say gay. 
Three hizzies, early at the road. 

Cam skelpin' up the way ; 
Twa had manteeles o' dolefu' black, 

But ane wi' IjBit lining ; - 
The third that gaed a wee a-back, 

Was in the fashion shining, 

Fu' gay that day. 

The twa appeared like sisters twin, 

In feature, form, an' claes : 
Their visage wither'd, lang, an* thin. 

An* sour as ony slaes ; 
The third oame up,*-loup, 

As light as ooy lammie. 
An' wi' a curcbie low did stoop,. 

As soon as e*er she saw me, 

Fu' kind that day. 



Wi' bannet aff, quoth I, * Sweet lass, 
I think ye seem to ken me ; 

I'm sure Tve seen that bonnie face, 
But yet I canna name ye.' 

Quo' she, an* laughin' as she spak. 
An' tak's me by the hands. 
Ye, for my sake, ha*e gi*en the feck 
Of a* the ten commands 

A screed some day. 

1 .t 

* Holff Fair is a common plurase la the vrest ot Soot* 
laud fur a ncramental occasion. 




" My name is jFun«-your cronie dear, 

The nearest friend ye ba*e ; 
An' this is Superstition here, 

An* that^s Hypocrisy, 
I'm gaun to Holy Fairy 

To spend an hour in daffin' ; 
Gin ye'U go there, yon runkled pair, 

We will get famous laughin* 

At them this day. ** 


Quoth I, * With a* my heart I'll do't ; 

ni get my Sunday's sark on. 
An* meet you on the holy spot ; 

Faith we*se hae fine remarkin* !' 
Then I gaed hame at erowdie time, 

An* soon I made me ready ; 
For roads were clad, frae side to side, 

Wi' monie a weary body, 

In droves that day. 


Here farmers gash, in ridin* graith 

Gaed hoddin* by their cotters : 
Their swankies young, in braw braid-claith 

Are springin* o*er the gutters. 
The lasses, skelpin* barefoot, thrang, 

In silks an* scarlets glitter ; 
Wi* sweet-milk cheese in monie a whang, 

An farh bak*d wi* butter, 

Fu* crump that day. 

When by the plate we set our nose, 

Weei neaped up wi* ha*pence, 
A greedy glowr Black Bonnet throws, 

An we maun draw our tippence. 
Then in we go to see the show, 

On ev*ry side they're gatherin*, 
Some carrying deals, some chairs an* stoo.8. 

An* some are busy bletherin*, 

Kight loud that day. 


Here stands a shed to fend the showVs, 

An* screen our countra Gentry, 
There, racer Jess, an* twa-three whores, 

Are blinkin' at the entry. 
Here sits a raw of tittlin* jades, 

Wi* heavin* breast and bare neck, 
An' there a batch of wabster lads, 

Blackguardin* frae K ck, 

For^wn this day. 


Here some are thinkin* on their sins, 

An* some upo* their claes ; 
Ane curses feet that fyl*d his shins, 

Anither sighs an* prays ; 
On this hand sits a chosen swatch, 

Wi* screw'd up grace- proud faces ; 
On that a set o* chaps at watch, 

Thrang winkin* on the lasses 

To chairs that day. 

O happy is the man an* blest ! 

Nae wonder that it pride him ! 
Wha*8 ain dear lass, that he likes best. 

Comes clinkin* down beside him ! 
Wi' arm repos*d on the chair- back. 

He sweetly does compose him ! 
Which, by degrees, slips round her oeck, 

An's loof upon her bosom v 

Unkenn'd that day. 


Now a* the congregation o'er 

Is silent expectation ; 
For — speels the holy door 

Wi* tidings o* damnation. 
Should Homie, as in ancient days, 

*Mang sons o* God present him, 
The vera sight o* *s face, 

To*s ain Let hame had sent him 

Wi* fright that day. 


Hear how he clears the points o* faith 

Wi* rattlin* an thumpin* ! 
Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath, 

He's stampin* an* he's jumpin* ! 
His lengthen'd chin, his tum*d-up snout, 

His eldritch squeel and gestures, 
Ob, how they fire the heart devou^ 

Like cantharidian plasters, 

On sic a day ' 


But hark ! the tent has chang*d its voice ; 

There's peace and rest nae langer : 
For a' the realjudqes rise, 

They canna sit lor anger. 
opens out his cauld harangues 

On practice and on morals ; 
An* an the godly pour in thrangs. 

To gie the jars an' barrels 

A lift that day. 


What signifies his barren shine 

Of moral pow'rs and reason ? 
His English style, an* gesture fine, 

Are a* clean out o* season. 
Like Socrates or ArUoninef 

Or some auld pagan Heathen, 
The moral man he does define, 

But ne'er a word o* faith in 

That's right that ^y. 


In guid time comes an antidote 
Against sic poison*^ nostrum : 

For , frae the water-fit, 

Ascends the holy rostrum : 

See, up he's got the word o* God, 
An' meek an' mim has view'd it. 



While Common-sense has ta'en the road, 
An' aff, an' up the Cowgate,* 

Fast, fast, that day. 


neist the guard relieves, 

An' orthodoxy raibles, 
Tho' in his heart he weel believes, 

And thinks it auld wives* fables : 
But, faith ; the birkie wants a manse 

So cannily he hums them ; 
Altho* his carnal wit and sense 

Like hafflins-ways overcomes him 
At times that day. 

Now but an* ben, the change-house fills, 

Wi* yill-caup commentators : 
Here's crying out for bakes and gills. 

And there the pint stoup clatters ; 
While thick an' thrang, an* loud an' lang, 

Wi' logic, an' wi* Scripture, 
They raise a din, that in the end, 

Is like to breed a rupture 

O* wrath that day. 


Leeze me on Drink ! it gi*es us mair 

Than either School or College : 
It kindles wit, it waukens lair, 

It pangs us fou o* knowledge. 
Be*t whisky gill, or penny wheep, 

Or ony stronger potion, 
It never fails, on drinking deep, 

To kittle up our notion 

By night or day. 


The lads an' lasses, blythelv bent 

To mind baith saul and body. 
Sit round the table weel content, 

An' steer about the toddy. 
On this ane's dress, an* that ane*8 leuk, 

They're makin' observations ; 
While some are cozie i* the neuk. 

An' forming assignations 

To meet some day. 

But now the L— d's ain trumpet touts, 

Till a' the hills are rairin*. 
An' echoes back return the shouts : 

Black is na spairin' : 

His piercing words, like Highland swords 

Divide the joints an' marrow ; 
His talk o' Hell, where devils dwell, 

Our very sauls does harrow f 

Wi' fright that day.; 

A vast, unbottom'd boundless pit, 

FillM fou o' lowin* brunstarie, 
Wha's ragin' tlame and scorchin' heat. 

Wad melt the hardest whun-stane I 

• A street bo called, which faces the tent ia • — « 
f Shak8p«are's Hamlet. 

The half asleep start up wi' fear, 
And think tbe^ bear it roarin*. 

When presently it does appear, 
'Twas but some neighbour snorin* 

Asleep that day. 

'Twad be owre lan|^ a tale to tell 

How monie stones past, 
An' how they crowded to the 3^11, 

When they were a' dismist : 
How drink gaed round, in cogs an* catips* 

Amang the furms an' benches ; 
An* cheese an' brend, frae women's laps, 

Was dealt about in lunches 

An' dawds that day. 

In comes a gaucie, gash guidwife, 

An' sits down by the fire. 
Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife. 

The lasses they are shyer. 
The auld guidmen, about the gracit 

Frae side to side they boiber, 
Till some ane by his bonnet lays. 

And gi'es them't like a tether, 

Fu* lang that day. 


Waesucks ! for him that gets nae lass. 

Or lasses that hae naething ! 
Sma' need has he to say a grace 

Or melvie his braw claithing ! 
O wives be mindfu' ance yoursel' 

How bonnie lads ye wanted, 
An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel, 

Let lasses be affronted 

On sic a day. 


Now ClinkumheUt wi' rattlin' tow, 

Begins to jow an* croon ; 
Some swagger hame, the best they dow. 

Some wait the afternoon. 
At slaps the billies halt a blink. 

Till lasses strip their shoon : 
Wi' faith an* hope, an' love an' drink, 

They're a* in famous tune, 

For crack that day. 

How monie hearts this day converts 

O' sinners and o' lasses I 
Their hearts o' stane, gin night, are gane 

As saft as ony flesh is. 
There's some are fou o' love divine ; 

There's some are fou o' brandy ; 
An' mony jobs that day b^n, 

May end in houghmagandie 

Some ither day. 





Some books are lies frae end to end, 
And some great lies were never penn'd 
Ev'n Ministers, they hae been kenn'd. 

In holy rapture, 
A rousing whid, at tiaies, to vend, 

And nail't \vi' Sn ipiure. 

But this that I am gaun to tell. 
Which lately on a night befell, 
Is juit as tiue's the De'iTs in hell 

Or Dublin city : 
That e'er he nearer comes oursel* 

'S a muckle pity. 

The Clachan yill had made me canty, 

I was nae fou, but just had plenty; 

1 stacher'd whiles, but yet took tent aye 

To tree the ditches ; 
All' hillocks, stanes, an* bushes, kenn'd aye 

Frae ghaists an' witches. 

The rising moon began to glow'r 
The distant Cumnock hills out-owre ; 
To count her horns, wi' a' my pow'r, 

I set mysel' ; 
But whether she had three or four, 

I couldna tell. 

I was come rouitd about the hill, 
And todlin down on W tile's mill 
Setting my staff vvi* a' my skill. 

To keep me sicker ; 
Tho* leeward whyles, against my will, 

I took a bicker. 

1 there wi* Something did forgather. 

That put me in an eerie swith^r : 

An* awfu* scythe, out-owre ae shouther, 

Clear-dangling, hang ; 
A three- taed leister on the ither, 

Lay, large an* lang. 

Its stature seemM lang Scotch ells twa, 
The queerest shape that e*er I saw, 
For fient a wame it had ava ; 

And then, its shanks. 
They were as thin, as sharp, an* sma* 

As cheeks o' branks. 

«Guid.een,'quo' I ; * Friend ! hae ye been mawin*, 
* When ither folk are busy sawin* ?* * 
It 6eem*d to mak* a kind o* stan*. 

But naething spak : 
At length, says I, * Friend, where ye gaun. 

Will ye go back ?' 

It spak right howe, — * My name is Death, 
But be na fley'd.*— Quoth I, * Guid faith, 
Ye're maybe come to stap my breath ; 

But tent me, billie : 

• This rencounter happened in sced-Uroe, 1785. 

I red ye weel, tak care o* skaith. 

See there's a guhy I* 

* Guidman,* quo* he, * put up your whittle, 
Vm no design'd to try its mettle ; 
But if I did, I wad be kittle 

To be mislear'd, 
I wad na mind it, no, that spittle 

Out owre my beard.* 

* Weel, weel !* says I, * a bargain be't ; 
Come, gie's your hand, an' sae we're gree't ; 
We'll ease our shanks an* tak a seat. 

Come gie's your news ; 
This while * ye hae been mony a gate, 

At mony a house. * 

* Ay, ay !' quo' he, an* shook his head, 

* Its een a lang, lang time indeed 
Sin* I began to nick the thread, 

An' choke the breath : 
Folk maun do something for their bread. 

An* sae maun Death. 

* Sax thousand years are near hand fled 
Sin' I was to the hutching bred, 

An' mony a scheme in vain's been laid, 

To stap or scar me ; 

Till ane Hornbook 's t taen up the trade. 

An' faith, he'll waur mc. 

' Ye ken Jock Hombookt i* the Clachan, 
Deil mak his king's hood in a spleuchan ! 
He's grown sae weel acquaint wi' Buchan | 

An* ither chaps, 
The weans baud out their fingers laughin* 

An* pouk my hips 

* See, here's a scythe, and there's a dart, 
They hae pierc'd mony a gallant heart : 
But Doctor Hombookf wi' his art 

And cursed skill. 
Has made them baith no worth a f — t, 

Damn'd haet they'll kilL 

* 'Twas but yestreen, nae farther gaen, 
I threw a noble throw at ane ; 

Wi' less, I'm sure, I've hundreds slain ; 

But deil-ma-care. 
It just play'd dirl on the bane, 

But did nae mair. 

* Hornbook was by, wi' ready art, 
And had sae fortified the part. 
That when I looked to my dart, 

It was sae blunt, 
Fient haet o't wad hae pierc'd the heart 

Of a kail-runt. 

* I drew my scythe in sic a fury. 

« An epidt»niiral fever wan then racing In that country, 

f This gentleman, Dr Horuhook^ is, professionanv . 

a brother of the Sovereign Order of the Ferula ; but 

by intuition and inspiration, is at onc«i on Ap>ithecary, 

Surgeon, and Physician. . 

t BucUan'a DohhsMc Meduiue. 




I nearhand coupit wi' my hurry, 
But yet the bauld Apothecary 

Withstood the shock ; 
I might as weel hae tried a quarry 

O' hard whin rock. 

* Ev*n them he canna get attended, 
Altho^ their face he ne'er had kend it, 
Just !■ in a kail-blade« and send it. 

As soon's he smells't, 
Baith their disease, and what will mend it, 

At once he tells't. 

* An* then a' doctors* saws and whittles. 
Of a* dimensions, shapes, an* mettles, 
A' kinds o* boxes, mugs, an' bottles. 

He's sure to hae ; 
Their Latin names as fast he rattles 

As A B C. 

* Calces o' fossils, earths, and trees ; 
True Sal-marinum o* the seas ; 
The Farina of beans and pease, 

He has't in plenty ; 
Aqua-fontis, what you please. 

He can content ye. 

* Forbye some new, uncommon weapons, 
Urinus Spiritus of capons ; 
Or Mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings ; 

Distill'd per se ; 
Sal-alkali o* Midge.tail clippins. 

An' mony mae.' 

* Waes me for Johnny Ged*s Hole * now ;* 
Quo' I, * If that the news be true ! 

His Draw calf-ward where gowans grew, 

Sae white an* bonnie, 

Nae doubt they'll rive it wi* the plough ; 

They'll ruin Johnnie !' 

The creature grain'd an eldritch laugh. 
An* says, * Ye need na yoke the pleugh, 
Kirk.yards will soon be till'd eneugh, 

Tak ye nae fear ; 
TheyUl a* be trenched wi' mony a sheugh 

In twa-three year. 

* Whare I kill'd ane a fair strae death. 
By loss o' blood or want o* breath, 
This night I'm free to tak my aith. 

That Hornbook's skill 
Has clad a score i' their last claith, 

By drap an* pill. 

* An honest Wabster to his trade, 

Wbase wife's twa nieves were scarce weel bred, 
Gat tippence-worth to mend her head. 

When it was sair ; 
The wife slade cannie to her bed, 

But ne'er spak main 

* A countra Laird had ta'en the batts. 
Or some curmurring in his guts, 

* The ^rave-digger. 

His only son for Hornbook sets. 

An' pays him well ; 

The lad, for twa guid gimmer pets. 

Was laird himsel*. 

* A bonnie lass, ve ken her name. 

Some ill-brewn drink had hov'd her wame ; 
She trusts herser, to hide the shame. 

In Hombook*8 care ; 
Horn sent her aff to her lang hame, 

To hide it there. 

* That's just a swatch o' Hornbook* 8 way ; 
Thus goes he on from day to day, 
Thus does he poison, kill, an' slay, 

An's weel paid for't ; . 
Yet stops me o* my lawfu' prey, 

Wi* his damn'd dirt. 

» But hark ! Ill tell you of a plot, 
Though dinna ye be speaking ot ; 
I'll nail the self-conceited sot. 

As dead's a herrin' ; 
Neist time we meet. 111 wad a groat. 

He gets his fairin* ! 

But just as he began to tell. 

The auld kirk- hammer strak the bell, 

Some wee short hour ayont the twul, ^ 

Which rais*d us baith ; 
I took the way that pleased mysel*, 

And sae did Death. 



Inscribed to J. B , Esq. Ayr. 

The simple Bard, rough at the rustic plough. 
Learning his tuneful trade from every bough ^ 
The chanting linnet, or the mellow thrush, 
Hailing the setting sun, sweet, in the 'green 

thorn bush : 
The soaring lark, the perching red breast shrill. 
Or deep-toned plovers, grey, wild whistling o*er 

the hill ; 
Shall he, nurst in the Feasant's lowly shed, 
To hardy independence bravely bred, 
By early Poverty to hardship steel'd, 
And train'd to arms in stem Misfortune's 

Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes. 
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes ? 
Or labour hard the panegyric close. 
With all the venal soul of dedicating Prose? 
No ! though his artless strains he rudely sings. 
And throws his hand uncouthly o'er the strings, 
He glows with all the spirit of the Bard, 
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward. 
Still if some Patron's generous care he trace* 
Skilled in the secret, to bestow with grace ; 

When B befriends his humble name, 

And hands the rustic stranger up to fame. 



With heart-felt throbs his grateful bosom 

The godlike bliss, to give alone excels. 

*Twa8 when the stacks get on their winter 

And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap : 
Potatoe bings are snugged up frae skaith 
Of coming Winter's biting, frosty breath ; 
The bees rejoicing o'er their simmer toils, 
(Jnnumber'd buds an^ flowers' delicious spoils, 
Seal'd up with frugal care in massive waxen 

Are doomed by man, that tyrant o'er the weak, 
The death o* devils, smoor'd wi' brimstone 

reek : 
The thundering guns are heard on ev'ry side, 
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide ; 
The feather'd field-mates, bound by Nature's 

Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie : 
( What warm, poetic heart, but inly bleeds, 
And execrates man's savage, ruthless deeds ! ) 
Nae mair the flow'r in field or meadow springs: 
Nae mair the grove wi' airy concert rings. 
Except, perhaps, the Robin's whistling glee. 
Proud o* the height o' some bit half-lang tree : 
The hoary moms precede the sunny days. 
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide 

While thick the gossamour waves wanton in 

the rays. 
'Twas in that season, when a simple bard. 
Unknown and poor, simplicity's reward, 
Ae night, withm the ancient brugh of Ayr^ 
Bv whim inspired, or haply prest wi* care ; 
He left his bed, and took bis wayward route. 
And down by Simpson's* whetl'd the left 

(Whether impell'd by all-directing Fate 
To witness what I after shall narrate ; 
Or whether rapt in meditation high, 
He wander'd out he knew not where nor why), 
The drowsy Z)Mw^con-c/bcA,f hadnumber'd two, 
And Wallace tower f had sworn the fact was 

true : 
The tide-swoln Firth, with sullen-sounding 

Thro' the still night dash'd hoarse along the 

shore : 
All else was hush'd in Nature's closed e'e ; 
The silent moon shone high o'er tow'r and tree: 
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam, 
Crept, gently-crusting,o*er the glittering stream. 

When, lo ! on either hand the list'ning bard, 
The clanging sough of whistling wings he 

heard ; 
Two dusky forms dart thro* the midnight air. 
Swift as the Go8\ drives on the wheeling hare ; 

• A notod tavern at the Auld Brig end. 

f The two steeples. 

i The gos-hawkj or falcon. 

Ane on th Auld Brig his airy shape uprears, 
The ither flutters o'er the rising piers : 
Our warlike Rhymer instantly descr/d 
The Sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr jjreside. 
( That Bards are second-sighted is nae joke. 
An* ken the lingo of the sp'ritual folk ; 
Fays, Spunkies, Kelpies, a' they can explain 

And ev'n the vera deils they brawly ken them. 
Auld Brig appear'd of ancient Pictish race, 
The vera wrinkles Grothic in his face : 
He seem'd as he wi' Time had warstl'd lang, 
Yet teughly doure, he bade an unco bang. 
New Brig was buskit in a braw new coat. 
That he, at LorCon frae ane Adams got ; 
In's hand five taper staves as smooth's a bead, 
Wi' virls and whirlygigums at the head. 
The Goth was stalking round with anxious 

Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch ; 
It chanc'd his new-come neebor took his e'e, 
And e'en a vex'd an* angry heart had he ! 
Wi' tbieveless sneer to see each modish mien- 
He, down the water, gies him thus guide'en — 


I doubt na', frien', ye'U think ye're nae sheep- 
Ance ye were streekit o'er frae bank to bank 
But gin ye be a brig as auld as me, 
Tho' faith that day I doubt yell never see ; 
There'll be, if that day come, I'll wad a boddle. 
Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle. 


Auld Vandal, ye but show your little mense. 
Just much about it wi' your scanty sense ; 
Will your poor narrow foot-path of a street. 
Where twa wheel-barrows tremble when they 

Your ruin'd formless bulk, o' stane an' lime. 
Compare wi' bonnie Brigs o' modern time ? 
There's men o' taste would tak' the Ducat- 

Tho» they should cast the very sark and swim, 
Ere they would grate their feelings wi' the view 
Of &ic an ugly Gothic hulk as you. 


I'll be a Brig when ye're a shapeless cairn ! 
As yet ye little ken about the matter, 
But twa-three winters will inform ye better. 
When heavy, dark, continued, a'-day rains, 
Wi' deepening deluges o'erflow the plains ; 
When from the hills where springs the brawl 

i g Coil, 
Or stately Lugar's mossy fountains boil, 
Oi where the Greenock winds his moorland 

Or haunted Garpal f draws his feeble source. 

• A noted ford, ja^t above the Auld Brig, 
t The banks of Garptii Water is one of the few plecea 

G 2 

I.M — 



Arou8*d by blustVing winds and spotted thowes, 
In mony a torrent down his sna-broo rowes ; 
While crashing ice, borne on the roaring speat, 
Sweeps dams, an* mills, an* brigs, a' to the 

gate ; 
And from Glcnbuck* down to the Ratton key,\ 
Auld Ayr is just one lengthened tumbling sea ; 
Then down ye'll hurl, deil nor ye never rise ! 
And dash the guinlie jaups up to the pouring 

A lesson sadly tcacnmg, to your cost, 
That Architecture's noble art is lost ! 

Fine Architecture, trowth, 1 needs must say't 

The L— d be thankit that we've tint the gate 

Gaunt, ghastly, ghaist alluring edifices. 
Hanging with threatening jut, like precipices ; 
O'er arching, mouldy, gloom inspiring coves, 
Supporting roofs fantastic, stony groves : 
Windows and doors, in nameless sculpture 

With order, symmetry, or taste unblest ; 
Forms like some bedlam statuary's dream, 
The craz'd creations of misguided whim ; 
Forms might be worshipp'd on the bended 

And still the second dread command be free, 
Their likeness is not found on earth, in air, or 

Mansions that would disgrace the building 

Of any mason, reptile, bird, or beast -, 
Fit only for a doited Monki-h race, 
Or frosty maids forsworn the dear embrace, 
Or cuifs of later times, wha held the notion 
That sullen gloom was sterling true devotion. 
Fancies that our guid Brugh denies protection, 
And soon may they expire, unblest with re- 

surri'Ction I 

And agonizing, curse the time and place 
When ye begat the base, degenerate race ! 
Nae langer Rev'rend Men, their country's 

In plain braid Scots hold forth a plain braid 

story ! 
Nae langer thrifty Citizens, an' douce. 
Meet owre a pint, or in the Council house : 
But staumrel, corky-headed, graceless Gentry, 
The herrymtnt and ruin of the country ; 
Men, three parts made by tailors and by bar- 

Wha waste your well-hain'd gear on d d 

new Brigs and Harbours ! 


Now baud you there ! for faith ye've said 

And muckle mair than ye can mak to 

As tor your Priesthood, I shall say but Uttlfr 
Corbies and Clergy are a shot right kittle : 
But, under favour o' your langer beard, 
Abuse o' Magistrates might weel be spared ; 
To liken them to your auld warld squad, 
I must needs say comparisons are odd. 
In Ayr, Wag-wits nae mair can hae a handle 
To mouth * a Citizen,* a term o' scandal : 
Nae mair the Council waddles down tho 

In all the pomp of ignorant conceit ; 
Men wha grew wise priggin* owre hops an* 

raisins, , c. • • 

Or gather'd liberal views in Bonds and Seisms. 
If haply Knowledge, on a random tramp, 
Had shored them with a glimmer of his lamp. 
And would to Common-sense, for once be- 
trayed them. 
Plain dull Stupidity stept kindly in to aid 


O ye, my dear-remember'd ancient yealings, 
Were ye but here to share my wounded feel- 

Ye worthy ProveseSy an' mony a HaUiey 
Wha in the paths o' righteousness did toil aye ; 
Ye dainty Deacons^ an' ye douce ConvenerSj 
To whom our moderns are but causey- 
cleaners ; 
Ye godly Councils wha hae blest this town ; 
Ye godly Brethren of the sacred gown, 
Wha meekly gae your hurdies to the smiters ; 
And (what' would now be strange) ye godly 

Writers : 
A' ye douce folk I've borne aboon the broo, 
Were ye but here, what would ye say or do ! 
How would your spirits groan in deep vex- 
To see each melancholy alteration ; 

In the Wett of Scotland, ulnre thoso f;\ncy.8caring be- 
Ings, known by the imme of Ghauts, still continue 
pertinaciously to inhabit. 

* The source of th«« river Ayr. 

t A small landing-place above the large key. 

What farther clishmaclaver might been said. 
What bloody wars, if Sprites had blood to 

No man can tell ; but all before their sight, 
A fairy train appear'd in order bright : 
Adown the glitt'ring stream they featly danced : 
Bright to the moon their various dresses 

glanced : 
They footed o'er the wat'ry glass so neat, 
The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet. 
While arts of Minstrelsy among them rung. 
And soul ennobling bards heroic ditties sung. 
O had M'Lauchhn,* thairm- inspiring sage, 
Been there to hear this heavenly band engage, 
When thro* his dear Strathspeys they bore 

with Highland rage ; , . • 

Or when they struck old Scotia's melUng airs, 
The lover's raptured joys or bleeding cares ; 
How would his Highland lug been nobler fired, 
And even his matchless hand with finer touch 
inspir'd ! 

* A well icnov n performer of Scottish mtuic on th 



No guess could tell what instrument appear'd, 
But all the soul of Music's self was beard ; 
Harmonious concert rung in every part, 
While simple melody pour'd moving on the 

The Genius of the stream in front appears, 
A venerable chief advanced in years ; 
His hoarv head with water-lilies crown'd, 
His manly leg with garter tangle bound. 
Next came the loveliest pair in all the ring, 
Sweet Female Beauty hand in hand with 

Spring ; [Joy, 

Then, crown'd wnth flow'ry hay, came Rural 
And Summer, with his fervid-beaming eye ; 
All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn. 
Led yellow Autumn wreath'd viith nodding 

com ; [show, 

Then Winter's time-bleached locks did hoary 
By Hospitality with cloudless brow ; 
Next followed Courage with his martial stride, 
From where the Feal wild-woody coverts 

hide ; 
Benevolence, with mild benignant air, 
A female form, came from the tow*rs of Stair .• 
Learning and Worth in equal measures trode 
From simple CatrinCy their long.lovM abode : 
Last, white-robM Peace, crownM with a hazel 

To rustic Agriculture did bequeath 
The broken iron instruments of death : 
At sight of whom our Sprites forgat their 

kindling wrath. 


For sense they little owe to Frugal Heav'n — 
To please the Mob they hide the little giv'n. 

Kilmarnock Wabsters, fidge and claw, 

An' pour your creeshie nations j 
An' ye wha leather rax an' draw, 

Of a' denominations. 
Swith to the Laiyh Kirkf ane an' a'. 

An' there tak up your stations i 
Then aff to Begbie's in a raw, 

An' pour divine libations 

For joy this day. 


Curst Common-sense, that imp o' hell, 
Cam in wi' Maggie Lauder ;* 

But O aft made her yell, 

An* R . sair misca'd her ; 

This day, M' takes the flail. 

An* he's the boy will blaud her ! 

* Alluding to a scoffing ballad which was made on the 
vlmission of the late Reverend and worthy Mr L. to the 
Laigh Kirk 

Hell clap a shangan on her tail, 
An' set the bairns to daud her 

Wi' dirt this day. 

Mak haste an' turn king David owre, 

An* lilt wi' holy clangor ; 
O' double verse come gie us four, 

An' skirl up the Bangor : 
This day the Kirk kicks up a stoure, 

Nae mair the knaves shall wrang her, 
For heresy is in her power, 

And gloriously shell whang her 

Wi* pith this day. 


Come let a proper text be read, 

An' touch it aff wi* vigour, 
How graceless Ham* leugh at his Dad, 

Which made Canaan a niger ; 
Or Phineas\ drove the murdering blade, 

Wi* whore-abhorring rigour ; 
Or ZipporahyX the scaulding jade, 

Was like a bluidy tiger 

r the inn that day. 


There, try his mettle on the creed, 

An' bind him down wi* caution. 
That Stipend is a carnal weed, 

He taks but for the fashion ; 
An» gie him o'er the flock to feed. 

An' punish each transgression ; 
Especial, rams that cross the breed, 

Gie them sufficient threshin'. 

Spare them nae day, 


Now auld Kilmarnock, cock thy tail. 

An* toss thy horns fu* canty j 
Nae mair thou'lt rowt out-owre the dale 

Because thy pasture's scanty ; 
For lapfu's large o* gospel kail 

Shall fill thy crib in plenty. 
An' runts o' gracey the pick and wale, 

No gi'en by way o' dainty. 

But ilka day. 

Nae mair by Babel's streams we'll weep. 

To think upon our Zion ; 
An' liing our fiddles up to sleep. 

Like baby-clouts a-dryin' ; 
Come, screw the pegs with tunefu' cheep, 

An' owre the thairms be tryin' ; 
Oh, rare ! to see our elbucks wheep, 

All' a like lamb-tails flyin' 

Fu' fast this day . 

Lang Patronagey wi' rod o' aim. 
Has shored the Kirk's undoin'. 

« Genesis, ch. ix. ver. 22. 
f Numbers, ch. xxv. ver. 8, 
J Exodus, ch. Iv. ver. 25. 



As lately Fenwick, sair forfairn, 

Has proven to its ruin : 
Our Patron, honest man ! Glencaimy 

He saw mischief was brewing ; 
A n* like a godly elect bairn 

He's waled us out a true ane, 

An* sound this day. 

Now R. 


harangue nae mail*, 

But steek ^our gab for ever ; 
Or try the wicked town of Ayr, 

For there they'll think you clever ; 
Or, nae reflection on your lear. 

Ye may commence a shaver ; 
Or to the Netherton repair, 

An' turn a carpet weaver 

Affhand this day. 



and you were just a match, 

We never had sic twa drones ; 
Auld Hornie did the Laigh Kirk watch, 

Just like a winkin* baudrons : 
An' aye he catch'd the tither wretch, 

To fry them in his caudrons : 
But now his honour maun detach, 

Wi' a'^ his brimstone squadrons, 

Fast, fast, this day, 

See, see auld Orthodoxy's faes. 

She's swingein' through the city ; 
Hark how the nine-tail'd cat she plays ! 

I vow it's unco pretty : 
There Learning, wi' his Greekish face, 

Grunts out some Latin ditty : 
An' Common-sense is gaun, she says. 

To mak to Jamie Beattie 

Her plaint this day. 

But there's Morality himsel'. 

Embracing a' opinions ; 
Hear, how he gies the tither yell, 

Between his twa companions ; 
See, how she peels the skin an* fell, 

As ane were peelin' onions ! 
Now there — they're packed aflfto hell, 

An* banish'd our dominions. 

Henceforth this day. 

O happy day ! rejoice, rejoice ! 

Come bouse about the porter ! 
Morality's demure decoys 

Shall here nae mair find quarter : 
M* , R , are the boys, 

That heresy can torture : 
They'll gie her on a rape a hoyse. 

An' cGwe her measure shorter 

By the head some day. 

Come bring the tither mutchkin in. 
An' here's for a conclusion, 

To every New Light* mother's son. 
From this time forth Confusion ; 

If mair they deave us wi* their din, 
Or Patronage intrusion, 

We'll light a spunk, an' ev'ry skin, 
We'll rin them aff in fusion 

Like oil, some day. 



On hia Text, Malachi, ch. iv. ver. 2 ** And they shall 
go forth, and grow up, like calves of the stall." 

Right Sir ! your text Til prove it true, 

Though Heretics may laugh ; 
For instance ; there's yoursel' just now, 

Grod knows, an unco Calf.' 

An' should some Patron be so kind. 

As bless you wi* a kirk, 
I doubt nae. Sir, but then we'll find, 

Ye»re still as great a Stirk, 

But, if the Lovers raptur'd hour 

Shall ever be your lot, 
Forbid it, every heavenly Power, 

You e'er should be a Stot / 

Tho*, when some kind, connubial Dear, 

Your but-and-ben adorns. 
The like has been that you may wear 

A noble head of horns. 

And in your lug, most reverend James, 

To hear you roar and rowte. 
Few men o' sense will doubt your claims 

To rank amang the nowte. 

And when ye*re number'd wi' the dead, 

Below a grassy hillock, 
Wi' justice they may mark your head— 

* Here lies a famous BuUock !* 


O Prince ! O Chief of many throned Pow*rs, 
That led the embattled Seraphim to war.— MtV^on. 

O THOU ! whatever title suit thee, 
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie, 
Wha in yon cavern grim an' sootie, 

Clos'd under batches, 
Spairges about the brunstane cootie, 

To scaud poor wretches 

Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee, 
An' let poor damned bodies be ; 

« New Light is a cant phrase in the West of Scotland , 
for those religioiis opinions which Dr Taylor of Nur. 
wich has defended so strenuously. 



Vm sure sma' pleasure it can gie, 

E'en to a deil» 
To skelp ail' scaud poor dogs like me. 

An' hear us squeel ! 

Great is thy pow r, an' great thy fame ; 
Far kend and noted is thy name ; 
An* tho' yon lowin' heugh's thy hame, 

Thou travels far ; 
An* faith ! thou*8 neither lag nor lame. 

Nor blate nor scaur. 

Whyles, ranging like a roarin* lion, 
For prey, a* holes and corners tryin' ; 
Whyles on the strong-wing'd tempest flyin\ 

Tirling the kirks ; 
Whyles, in the human bosom pryin', 

Unseen thou lurks. 

I've heard my reverend Graunie say, 
In lanely glens you like to stray ; 
Or where auld ruinM castles gray, 

Nod to the moon, 
Ye fright the nightly \vand*rer*s way, 

Wi* eldritch croon. 

When twilight did my Graunie summon, 
To say her prayers, douce honest woman ! 
Aft yont the dyke she's heard you bummin* ! 

Wi* eerie drone i 
Or, nistlin', thro* the boortries comin*, 

Wi* heavy groan. 

Ae dreary, windy, winter night, 
The stars shot down wi* sklentin' light, 
Wi* you, myseV, I gat a fright, 

A yont the lough ; 
Ye, like a rash- bush stood in sight, 

Wi* waving sough. 

The cudgel in my nieve did shake, 
Each bristl'd hair stood like a stake. 
When wi' an eldritch stour, quaick — quaick— 

Amang the springs, 
Awa ye squatter'd like a drake. 

On whistling wings. 

Let Warlocks grim, an' withered hags, 
Tell how wi' you on ragweed nags, 
They skim the muirs, and dizzy crags, 

Wi' wicked speed ; 
And in kirk-yards renew their leagues, 

Owre howkit dead. 

Thence countra wives, wi* toil an* pain, 
May plunge an' plunge the kirn in vain ; 
For oh ! the yellow treasure's ta'en 

By witching skill ; 
An' dawtit, twal-pint Hawkies gaen 

As yell's the BUL 

Thence mystic knots mak great abuse, 
On young Guidman, fond, keen, an' crouse ; 
"When the best wark-lume i' the house. 

By cantrip wit, 

Is instant made no worth a louse. 

Just at the bit. 

When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord, 
An' float the jinglin' icy^boord, 
Then Water-hipie* haunt the foord. 

By your direction. 
An' nigh ted Trav'llers are allured 

To their destruction. 

An. aft your moss-traversing Spunkies 
Decoy the wight that late and drunk is ; 
The bleezin*, curst, mischievous monkeys 

Delude his eyes. 
Till in some miry slough he sunk is. 

Ne'er mair to rise. 

When Mcuons* mystic «w<f an' grip, 
In storms an* tempests raise you up, 
Some cock or cat your rage maun stop. 

Or, strange to tell ; 
The youngest Brother ye wad whip 

Aff straught to hell ! 

Lang syne, in Eden's bonnie yard, 
When youthfu* lovers first were pair'd, 
An* all the soul of love they shared. 

The raptured hour. 
Sweet on the frgrant flowery swaird 

In shady bower ; 

Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog ! 
Ye came to Paradise incog. 
An' played on man a cursed brogue, 

(Black be your fa* !) 
An* gied the infant world a shog, 

'Maist ruined a 

D'ye mind that day, when in a bizz, 
Wi* reekit duds, and reestit gizz, 
Ye did present your emoutie phiz 

*Mang better folk. 
An' sklented on the man of Uz 

Your spitefii' joke ? 

An* how ye gat him i' your thrall. 
An* brak him out o' house an' hall. 
While scabs and blotches did h